Madiba The Musical
A Celebration of Nelson Mandela
The segregation of South Africa and imprisonment of Nelson Mandela seemed to be a constant television fixture during my childhood, though at the time I was too young to understand why any country would choose apartheid as a system for themselves, or why it was necessary for someone like Mandela to stand up against it. As an adult in the present day, it seems many of the challenges of the past such as race have resurfaced, and it is timely that this production arrives to remind us of our mistakes in the hope that we will not repeat them.
Madiba is a French production, translated into English for its visit to our shores, combining both South African and Australian talent. The name Madiba is from Mandela’s Xhosa clan, given to him in honorary admiration (it belonged to a much admired historical tribal leader of the Xhosa) but to also to ground his African roots against the colonial name ‘Nelson’ that he was given as a child.
This ambitious production spans the time from the start of apartheid when Mandela was a young lawyer supporting the claims of the black population who had many of their rights and freedoms stripped. Through song and the support of a narrator we track the effect of these changes on both blacks and whites, Mandela’s capture as Leader of the outlawed African National Congress (ANC), his time in prison and through to his eventual release and triumphant election as President of his ‘Rainbow Nation’.
The music is outstanding as are the vocal performances, and the African dancing and costumes are a highlight. The story line, however, will challenge theatregoers who do not have a background insight into the struggles of Mandela, and it felt at times song had priority over narrative, and with a complex story such as this the balance may have weighted better in the other direction. Commencing the story after apartheid was established left me wondering how the political and social climate in South Africa ever came to this decide this was the way forward. The impact of the world’s collective rejection of apartheid in the form of economic and sporting sanctions, and the global exposure of Mandela’s struggle (with the help of Winnie Mandela) via the media could have been more strongly felt with the use of historical news clips, as they were key events that led to his release.
Mandela is a heart-felt, lively and passionate production, but make sure you brush up on your history or grab a program to fully appreciate the struggles and triumphs of this important historical figure.
Review by Sarah List