After reading the first few pages of the book written about him by white South African writer Jonny Steinberg, Somali refugee Asad Abdullahi refused to read any further – having lived through it once, his story was just too upsetting to revisit in its totality. I don’t know whether he’ll be able to face seeing Isango Ensemble’s powerful semi-operatic adaptation for the stage, but for the rest of us, this award-winning South African company (under the skillful direction of Mark Dornford-May) combines glorious singing and lively dance, soul-stirring marimba music, humour and tragedy in a powerful insight into one man’s fortitude in the face of life-threatening, potentially soul-destroying adversity.
Having seen his mother shot before his eyes in 1991 when he was just 8 years old, Asad’s traumatic journey took him from Somalia to Kenya, from Kenya to Ethiopia and, later, as a young man on an equally treacherous economic migration through Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe to a South Africa which turned out not to be the promised land he hoped for.
There’s much kindness from relatives – but even more cruelty from strangers – and the cast of the Cape Town-based ensemble (including young Phielo Makitle as Asad as a boy and Pauline Malefane who takes him in and then has to leave him behind) do full justice to this tribute to the resilience of the human spirit.
credit: Keith Pattison
Young Vic, The Cut, SE1 8LZ
0207 922 2922
Tube: Southwark / Waterloo
Until 12th November
£10.00 – £35.00