Loud, proud and exuberantly African

By Andy Rice 29 May 2010

Ten years ago “African Footprint” burst onto stage as a lively, lovely musical bubbling over with infectious enthusiasm. A decade later it’s as vibrant and captivating as ever, and so what if I’ve seen it five times already, I still sucked up every minute with glee.

“African Footprint” is really making a song and dance about nothing at all except being proudly African. And right now, with the World Cup unfolding around us, that’s a good enough reason to celebrate.

The highlight as ever is the football scene with soccer players matched by brash Pantsula dancers, where there are so many people with so much energy dashing all over the stage that your poor aching eyes don’t know which frenetic direction to follow. The show hangs together through a series of short dance scenes, each drawn from a part of African culture.

The only niggle was that the singer playing the first male warrior just doesn’t have the clarity of diction to give the role the gravitas it needs as mankind first emerges on African soil. But the scene is short and soon forgotten as we spin out into gumboot dancing, tap and jive, drumming and a few heartfelt ballads to vary the pace.

The dancers, all gloriously lithe and athletic, do full justice to the wonderfully inventive choreography by Debbie Rakusin and David Matamela. A face-off between gumboot dancers and tappers is another highlight, enhanced by the simple effect of a silhouetted mining scene behind them.

The lighting is absolutely brilliant, with solo singers lit to perfection and many scenes enhanced by soft or stark effects that are thrown with perfect timing. It’s easy to rave about the costumes too, designed by Lindy Joubert to be lavish, sexy and eye-bogglingly colourful in the scenes where gaudy outfits add to the exuberance.

The Sophiatown scene is another excellent piece, beginning with the sultry mood of tap-dancing-meets-oil-drum-juggling, it builds to a zippy jazz crescendo as the women join the men and you realise you’re sitting with a daft, happy grin on your face at the magic of it all.

When the large cast launched into the “Children of Africa” finale, the silly grin on my face was joined by goose bumps creeping up my arms. “We have been here before,” they sang.

Hell, yes, and I’ll be going there again.

Review by Lesley Stones

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African Footprint runs at the Theatre of Marcellus at Emperors Palace until 20 June.



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