20November2017

Entertainment Theatre Reviewed: "Did We Dance" at the Baxter

Reviewed: "Did We Dance" at the Baxter

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Walking into the Sanlam Studio one is greeted with the acrid and overpowering smell of burning herbs and tribal chanting.

A dark and sombre mood is set and one is transfixed as the chanting and dancing builds to a fever pitch in director Mandla Mbothwe's Did We Dance. Written by Lara Foot, Did We Dance is the near 100-year-old story of the sinking of the Mendi, a troop carrier that sank off the Isle of Wight during World War 1 with nearly 800 members of the South African Native labour Corps aboard.

Did We Dance features a cast of eight actors - a big number for a production in the intimate space of the Studio Theatre but it works well in the limited space, emphasising the feeling of claustrophobia one would experience amongst many people in the limited space of a ship. The grey panelling on the sides of the theatre, covered with large rivets, sets the atmosphere of a wartime ship without the need for too many props, while the wooden bowls and dust on the floor in the front of the theatre takes one back to a rural village.

Indeed, the large cast make exceptional use of the space at their disposal as the production mixes timelines and scenes without causing confusion to the audience. The actors seamlessly transition from the naval enquiry into the accident, to the soldiers' life aboard the Mendi, to the village where protagonist Daniel (one of the soldiers' who dies aboard the Medni) and his wife Noria live with their son James.

Did We Dance is a heavy, sombre story that pays a fine tribute to a part of our history nearly forgotten, but will certainly be remembered by all that see the play.

Did We Dance is on at the Baxter Theatre until the 10th of March and shows areMondays to Saturdays at 7:00pm. Tickets are R80 - R100

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