So often we forget that theatre productions are not all about the lights, the glam and the gasps of happy surprises… it is life come to stage in all forms and facets. What it all comes down to is the story. Does the production have something to say, and in ‘saying’ so, does it convey an emotion that lingers past the curtain call?
A Man of Good Hope currently on stage at the Baxter Theatre is one such a play that definitely gives a voice to a story that must be told. It causes you to reflect on your perception of reality. Based on the book by Jonny Steinberg, it tells the life story of Asad, introduced first as a child, then as an impressionable youth and later revealed as a mature, driven man… of good hope.
In taking, or rather very creatively singing, you through Asad’s journey, you are given a glimpse into the struggle and plight of Somalian refugees that had to fight for survival in their own country, were displaced, and then had to fight again against discrimination in the countries where they hoped to re-establish themselves for the sake of their families. Instead of just hinting to the horrific xenophobic violence that erupted and the personal chaos it caused for those directly affected, A Man of Good Hope illuminates it, to reveal a truth of real emotion that demands true reflection.
Throughout all the turmoil you realise that Asad, no matter how terrible the obstacles he faced, never allowed his spirit to be crushed by his circumstances. It is that hope that the production builds on. It is a poignant story deserving of a stage. If you pay close attention, you may also pick up a bit of a West Side Story influence or feel when the land of the free is romanticized.
Personally I walked out loving the musical elements and appreciating the essence of the story, because we all need to be reminded of the power of hope. I did however feel that the production could be a bit tighter and shorter. Some story elements could be implied to prevent the audience from losing focus. But that said, I also left extremely impressed with the magic that the Isango Ensemble created (from musical direction straight through to set design), as the effort and commitment that non-profit theatre companies put in to bring to life a vision that calls for a voice is often overlooked.
Though it may not always be an easy production to process, the music is moving, the story commanding, and I can therefore forgive the fact that it was a bit trying on my derriere. All in all, A Man of Good Hope was an insightful musical production and it was a privilege to witness it.
Book your tickets at Computicket to see A Man of Good Hope before run ends 20 August 2016.