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SA musical wins prestigious Laurence Olivier Award

Thursday, 13 March 2008

SA Good News

A South African theatre production has won the award for the 2008 Best Musical Revival at the prestigious Laurence Olivier Awards, held in London on Sunday.

Competing against productions such as Fiddler on the Roof and Little Shop of Horrors, director of The Magic Flute / Impempe Yomlingo Mark Dornford-May, said the win is still sinking in.

“Best Musical Revival is one of the bigger Olivier Awards and so they held the announcement back to towards the end of the ceremony. After two hours of waiting and with terribly jangled nerves, we were very relieved to hear that we’d won. All the performers and I are over the moon.”

Dornford-May’s Magic Flute is performed by a cast of 35 singers and musicians from township of Khayelitsha in the Western Cape. The production features Dornford-May’s award-winning wife Pauline Malefane in the role of the “Queen of the Night”.

The production, which is a retelling of the Mozart classic from an African perspective, premiered last year at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town before embarking on a tour to the United Kingdom. The cast performed both The Magic Flute and their version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on alternate days at the Young Vic Theatre in London over the festive season.

Both shows received an overwhelming response, playing to over 400 000 theatre goers every night of their nine-week run at the Young Vic. “We found that people who had seen Christmas Carol would come back the following day to watch Magic Flute,” says Dornford-May.

Theatre critic Richard Morris from The UK Times said, “Dickens and Mozart would surely approve of the joie de verve that infuses both shows.”

Speaking of Magic Flute’s popularity with English audiences Dornford-May says, “People are certainly responding to the talent and level of expertise of the production but also to the newness of stories, re-interpreted from the perspective of a different culture.”

The Magic flute is currently on at the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End where it will run until April 19. With offers to perform in countries including Japan and France, Dornford-May says they will prioritise a South African tour of the production.

“It is important that South Africans get to see the production. We will be doing a tour that will include Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Durban, hopefully before next spring.”

Dornford-May who was born in Britain has lived in Cape Town, South Africa for the past eight years. “I love the country. It is a wealth of talent and there is a lot of opportunity in telling the stories of a new and young democracy.”

All of Dornford-May’s theatrical and film work over the last five years has been South African. He is responsible for creating The Mysteries, a hugely successful production that played the West End in London, as well as the award winning uCarmen eKhayalitsha. His latest venture is the Son of Man, a feature film which tells the story of the New Testament and set in a fantasy African state.


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