the lion roars

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

The Lion of the East , the controversial musical by theatre icon Mbongeni Ngema, got off to a roaring start at the weekend.

The opening on Friday at the eMalahleni Civic Theatre in eMalahleni was attended by Mpumalanga premier Thabang Makwetla and senior provincial government officials.

The show, which was bankrolled to the tune of about R20million by the provincial government, lived up to expectations as it retraced the footpath of potato farm workers in Bethal, Mpumalanga.

It tells the story of slavery on a Bethal farm, and how the farm workers were organised by one brave man, Gert Sibande, to resist the slavery and oppression.

This happened in 1958.

As a result of his resistance activities, Sibande was abducted by the farmer and his henchman and thrown into Mbuzini, a notorious lions' den in Mpumalanga.

Sibande, however, survived and fled to Swaziland.

Through song, dance and dialogue, the cast of 40 mesmerised the audience, taking them through different emotions, carrying them through anger and laughter.

It is a show comparable to Sarafina, The Zulu, Magic at 4am and other Ngema productions that he has done in the past.

It is still running in Mpumalanga and has been booked for an overseas season according to the producers.

The producers, however, could not say whether or not it will have a national tour.