Poverty, love, violence and redemption in Tsotsi, the Musical

Poverty, love, violence and redemption in Tsotsi, the Musical

‘Tsotsi, the Musical’, which can be seen at the Artscape Theatre from February 8 to 17, tackles social issues that are as relevant in 2018 as they were in 1980, at the time Athol Fugard’s novel ‘Tsotsi’ was published.

It has been thirteen years since director Gavin Hood was awarded the Academy Award for the outstanding film adaptation. Now, thirteen years on, Cape Town Opera revives the raw, yet moving story of David, a violent, nihilistic gangster whose life changes after he accidentally steals a baby.

But what makes this story different from the cinematic version that we already know?

“There is the misconception that our musical might be a recreation of the film onstage, with song and dance routines added in, as is sometimes the case with film-to-musical stage adaptions. This is not true of our production”, says Neil Coppen, co-director.

“While the narrative will be familiar to audiences, there are significant new characters, plot changes and exciting new storylines that will allow audiences to feel that they are journeying this story for the first time, or at least rediscovering it in a completely fresh way. I think audiences will find it to be a very original and surprising take, one that will excite fans of the film and novel and also theatre-goers across cultures and generations.”

The brand new stage production of ‘Tsotsi, the Musical’ is transferred to the stage by award-winning directors Neil Coppen and Khayelihle Dominique Gumede, and features a stellar cast. Hip-hop artist Mxolisi “Zuluboy” Majozi stars as the musical’s title character, with a supporting cast that includes Bianca Le Grange, Msizi Njapha, Busisiwe Ngejane, Kgomotso Matsunyane, Royston Stoffels, Lindani Nkosi, Ayanda Nhlangothi and Nhlanhla Mahlangu.

Choreographer and Standard Bank Young Artist Thandazile “Sonia” Radebe describes the musical’s dance style as “a blend of contemporary afro-fusion”, with a twist of street dance as well as traditional dance.

So what impact does the music have on the stage adaptation of the novel?

The production’s lyricist Mkhululi Mabija (librettist of Cape Town Opera’s ‘Bessie: The Blue-Eyed Xhosa’) believes that the addition of music opens up a whole new sphere, which makes us experience the story differently. “The beauty of the musical is that, moments that were just a sentence in the book, become songs or a musical sequence; a moment that exists on the page, we can hear it,” says Mabija.

The music is befittingly composed and directed by award-winning kwaito maestro Zwai Bala, who catapulted to super-stardom in 1997 with the iconic kwaito group, TKZee. The former Drakensberg Boy’s Choir member is inspired by a wide-range of musical genres – from classical to traditional music, gospel hymns to struggle songs – so audiences can expect a production that eschews tradition.

“It is a story of empathy, love, forgiveness, and redemption,” says Coppen. “It’s a message that at this point in time, humanity needs to be reminded of more than ever.”

* Tickets cost between R130 to R280.

Book at Computicket.