Poignant musical speaks of sad truths

The Last Supper is a musical drama now on at the Barn Theatre, which is based on the truths of South African family dynamics. Written and directed by Zwide playwright Xolani Mali, it centres on the final meal shared by a family about to bid farewell to Mandla, as he is about to serve a life sentence for the murder of a farming family.
Mandla means different things to different characters – a brother, son, nephew, boyfriend or neighbour.
However, bitterness, anger and total ruin unfold from a Pandora’s Box over the supper table, dividing the family.
There is a good balance between the spoken and sung dialogue and where there is an escalation of drama the cast breaks out in song.
Each in the ensemble cast of seven gets the chance to give a solo performance, but the core of the script focuses mainly on Mandla’s family of four and a live-in girlfriend.
The songs consist of well-known old American ballads and gospel tunes, as well as popular South African hymns from the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.
The cast members sing without accompaniment for most of the show and only at the end, following the dramatic climax of the death of one of the characters, is the audience introduced to the symphonic sounds of the gospel classic His Eyes Are On The Sparrow.
This powerful solo near the end portrays the sorrow and regret that is eating away at the family.
The lighting, with a spotlight on one actor, leaving the rest of the cast dimmed out, also sets the tone. The minimalist set sees most of the drama played out in the dining room, which the cast creatively set up in a very organised fashion. The other setting is Mandla’s prison cell, seen twice during the drama.
The Barn Theatre space adds to the intimate atmosphere, as the audience sits abreast of all the drama, like a fly on the wall.
The script is mostly in English with some use of slang and Xhosa.
Overall, The Last Supper is a good mixture of laughter, drama and sad moments, with a few scenes of violence and language which might offend sensitive ears.
It’s a good watch and I would recommend theatre lovers to introduce a friend to this musical drama.
The Last Supper, The Musical is at the Barn at 7pm on Friday and at 2pm and 7pm on Saturday. Tickets are R100 single, R150 double, R50 for pensioners and students. Further information from the PE Opera House, 041-585-1300.

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