We had seen the advert and even visited the Fugard theatre. But of course it was sold out the hold week. We really wanted to see this musical. The day before yesterday, however, they phoned, as we had left our contact details, and we managed to get hold on two tickets.
We were not disappointed. On the Fugard Theatre website the background is described like this:
Orpheus in Africa tells the little known story of the American impresario Orpheus McAdoo and his African-American Virginia Jubilee Singers, who visited South Africa in the 1890’s. Their tour began in Scotland where Orpheus met Lady Loch - the wife of the British Governor of the Cape - who invited them to Cape Town. It was here some 125 years ago that the Jubilee Singers became an unlikely overnight sensation.
The musical has many themes but one is of course about blackness. What does it mean to be black or as one of the songs asks:
Who do you see when you look into the mirror?
The musical is written by David Kramer, who is a well-known South African playwright and director. When I understood that he especially writes about the so called Cape Coloured community much in the musical made more sense.
I was, however, disappointed that 95% of the audience were white. South Africa is still a very segregated society. Of course any person is welcome to any theatre in South Africa but it seems that black people have other priorities. A vast majority of the population cannot afford attending a theatre a Thursday evening, that I know but taking into account that South Africa has a growing black middle class it was still surprising. It has to do with social cohesion. People talk with their friends about going together and people don’t have friends across racial lines. (Yes, I know that I am using old concepts now, but I do it because this is the realities.)
What I also know is that Cape Town, which I love, most probably is more separated than Johannesburg. This is sad.
The other evening, however, when we attended a jazz event, the situation was different. That evening the audience was totally mixed.
South Africa still has a long walk ahead to freedom and justice for all.