In some continents on the globe, nationalities are enduring a troublesome experience with poverty and wars etc. and for some people, their only escape is to move out and become immigrants in countries that are more wealthy i.e. the UK and the USA. The Young Vic’s production of Isango Ensemble’s sort of musical of Johnny Steinberg’s book, ‘A Man of Good Hope’ was such an astonishingly gripping tale of a specific civilisation having no choice but to breakout of their home nation in the hope for better lives, furthermore, the depictions were tremendous all over the whole shows duration.
‘A Man of Good Hope’ in set in Africa from 1991-2011 where we are acquainted with eight year old, Asaad who along with his Mother (Zannelle Mbatha) are living in a rather precarious situation where they’re basically residing on the breadline and due to this, Asaad’s future appears rather bleak. Asaad’s young life takes a turn for the worst as this mother is brutally murdered right in front of him and due to the fact that his in now orphaned, his cousin has to take responsibility for him. When Asaad and another one of his cousins decide that their only option for a better life and that is to move to the USA, however, the two try and gain entry to the border and immigration forces, Asaad’s cousin is allowed to take the voyage but Asaad is refused a ticket for the boat so once again he is left on his own. Over the course of the performance, Asaad transforms from boy to man and it appears that in order for him to have an opportunity for a good life is that he is educated in English by an English Teacher (Noluthando Boquana) and as such; he begins to work from his mobile phone so he was earning quite a bit of money. Nonetheless, he builds up a business by running his own grocery store and he becomes married to Yindy, then again, it is obvious that Yindy’s mother (Sindywa Sityata) and Yindy’s father (Ayanda Eliki)do not think Asaad is the most suitable person for their daughter. Regrettably, for Asaad, his life is turned upside down as his wife decides ro move out of Africa and makes it clear that this is the climax of their marriage. As such; it is notable that Asaad’s life is jam-packed full of disasters and another instance is that his business is ran-sacked by a rogue force so basically it is the tip of the iceberg and due to this, Asaad’s luck is an increasingly rare existence. At the finale, Asaad’s journey culminates in his first meeting with the writer, Johnny (Mandio Dyanto) where they are sat in a car and Johnny asks him to offer his side of the story which quite frankly is tragic and therefore the commencement of a story is in the pipeline. Isango Ensemble’s narrative is rather fascinating as we are taken through a bleak life story of a boy who became a man and the countless level of terrible situations is honed in with such considerable detailing.
One found the performances by the company of, ‘A Man of Good Hope’ to be eloquent with impressively dynamic movement sequences that grab the African environment with such vibrancy and colour. Ayanda Tikolo/Zoleka Mpotsha/Luvo Tamba/Siphosethu Juta/Phielo Makitle is resplendent as Asaad; in particular how we see that Asaad’s life really has been chaotic and with what he has been through, it would be understable if he was bitter but in actual fact he isn’t and the emotions shine through. Pauline Malefane is joyous as Asaad’s wife, Yindy; principally how we see that she is rather bossy towards her husband and when she explains that she will be leaving Asaad with his unborn child where he will not be allowed to have anything to do with he or she, we see that Yindy has no clue what this might do to Asaad’s confidence so she is altogether not a pleasant person.
Mark Dornford-May’s direction is dazzling here as he has captured Isango Ensemble and Jonny Steinberg’s story of a boy who became a man and how each and every chapter of his life leads to nothing but despair and this is conveyed through the enthralling characterisations and the musicianship of the African beats did actually make you want to do a bit of a jig and the sadness makes you moved too. The design by an unknown designer was definitely interesting as the set itself changes through each stage of Asaad’s journey through the west of Africa and the lighting by Mannie Manim really worked in showing the hot temperatures and the loneliness that Asaad must have felt. Overall, the experience of, ‘A Man of Good Hope’ was one of such intrigue and signifies that visiting companies can bring different cultures to a British audience who may not be aware of these issues which has been done so successfully here.