Insango Ensemble

Isango Ensemble at the Shakespeare Theatre

Washingtonians were treated to the dynamic skill and talent of performers who took to the stage with rhythmic adaptations of Western theatre classics, Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute” – Impempe Yomlingo and Shakespeare’s epic love poem “Venus and Adonis.” Opening weekend, Sept. 12 and 13, for the Isango Ensemble at the Shakespeare Theatre was full of diverse audiences for the South African performance group.

“All of it is probably a twist from beginning to the end,” Mandisi Dyantyis, associate director for the Isango Ensemble, told the AFRO. “You’ll get a lot of surprises in the way the stories are treated and the way the arrangement of the music is treated, so there are twists on many levels.”

“The Magic Flute is” centered on hope, courage and the will to face challenges in a questioning society. The “Venus and Adonis” poem is a quest for love through ultimate persuasion. As South Africa is rooted in eclectic music and speech, the performances are an introduction to the ways in which these townships experience life.

A member of the company since 2006, Dyantyis thrives from the raw talent of his cast members—many without the opportunity to formally study the arts—and the creative license that the company takes in its mission to create relatable tales.

“We have to be very honest and see what impact can have on society,” he said.

The Isango Ensemble was developed by director Mark Dornford-May and music director Paulien Malefane in Cape Town in 2000, and draws its performers from the townships surrounding the city. The productions speak to a broad and open-minded multicultural audience and has played to sold-out theatres around the world.

“The Magic Flute” has won several awards including the Whatsonstage Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Off-West End Production, following its season at the Young Vic Theatre, London, an Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival after touring the West End and Globes de Cristal for Best Opera in Paris.

Dyantyis is excited to bring South African theatre to the nation’s capitol, but to also share commonalities that are found around the world.

“We all seek a better life for us, we want to make our country or our immediate surroundings better than we found them and we want to make sure that others also benefit to life in the same way that we do, so in those areas, we’re the same,” he said. “We might come from a different place but our direction is the same.”

The Insango Ensemble will perform at the Lansburgh Theatre located at 450 7th St. in Northwest D.C. through Sept. 21.

Christina Sturdivant

Special to the AFRO