10 golden hula hoops spinning around 1 tiny female body, a man on a unicycle 5 wheels high; there is head-standing, hand-standing, juggling, dish spinning, ladder climbing and gymnastic feats gold medalists would be proud of. Mother Africa is more than a circus with live musicians, singing and dancing alongside the acrobatic acts. There are the obligatory drums and percussion but the Kora, guitar, saxophone are welcome additions to the band. The little vignettes, are moments that feel like everyday life on African soil contrasted with the magical circus segments. Expect gasps and bursts of applause from the audience particularly with the ‘rolla rolla’ stunts; be prepared to hold your heart.
There are playful moments, the hat juggling couples performance, acrobatic wonders with the dance Captain and the youngest of the troupe (just 14). With strong voiced singers, original songs with recognisable phrases like ‘Hakuna Matata and a rendition of a song from Paul Simon’s, Khayelitsha from his Graceland album, welcomes us all. As the only African circus to tour internationally, it is pleasing to see different ethnicities on stage, although most of the dialect is Southern African. The founder and director Winston Ruddle is South African, and the name of the production means “our new home” in Xhosa referring to one of the largest townships in Cape Town.
Apart from the underscoring in the vignettes being a little repetitive, (perhaps a decision made to bring some cohesion to the piece) the first half is strangely shorter and has less energy and direction than the superior second. That aside, the production is faultless and the Mother Africa troupe is highly entertaining. Children and adults alike left with smiles on their faces, I dare anyone not to do the same.
*Performers: Asha Mohamed Ally, Hadija Nasibu Hassan, Charles Edward Hizza, Silethemba Magona, Noluyanda Mqulwana, Hassani Hamadi Muya, Phumzile Zondo, Captain Clive Madlala, Yared Teklu Sheferaw, Mohamed Tadei Mohamed, Evans Osah, Tomas Teka Alemu, Tamrat Yemane Ayalew, Abere Alemayehu Debebe, Firehiwot Bayelgn Tefera, Baraja Juma Ferouz. Band: Roy Gregory Figueiredo, Stephen William Gambo, Mamadi Diabate, Nurdini Athani Makimu, Khamis Suleiman Mlenge, Richard Leonard Mwanisawa, Bizimana Emmanuel Ntavyo, Benicia Pompido Dominick and Marcos Santana.
Mother Africa’s Khayelitsha is at The Peacock until March 11. Find out more and book tickets here.