The Mysteries - Yiimimangaliso

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Previewed 11 September 2009, Opened 15 September 2009, Closed 3 October 2009 at the Garrick Theatre in London

The Isango Portobello Theatre Company present a revival of their production of The Mysteries - Yiimimangaliso in London for a strictly limited season.

From the Creation to the Resurrection through Noah's Ark and the Nativity, some of the greatest stories ever told are brought to life in this vibrant spectacle of music, dance, colour and spirit. Performed by the Isango Portobello Theatre Company in the languages of South Africa, including English, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Tswana and Zulu, The Mysteries - Yiimimangaliso also employs the glorious and exuberant musical sound which has become the company's trademark, featuring township percussion and joyous a cappella singing. This uplifting and passionate production is a moving and inspiring experience for all.

First seen in 2004 in two sell-out London seasons at Wilton's Music Hall and the Queen's Theatre, The Mysteries - Yiimimangaliso now returns to London's West End in a new production at the Garrick Theatre for 25 performances only with an ensemble cast of 33 performers led by Pauline Malefane. The Olivier Award-winning South African Isango Portobello Theatre Company returns to London's West End following their critically-acclaimed production of The Magic Flute - Impempe Yomlingo which enjoyed a West End season in 2008.

"First seen here in 2001-02, the show turns the medieval mystery plays into a thrilling celebration of God, humanity and the spirit of survival... The show's secret ingredient is the music, glorious township singing from a cast of more than 30 that soars with joy, faith and passion, ranging from spirituals and hymns to township jive and even Singin' in the Rain and You Are My Sunshine during the Flood... Director and adaptor Mark Dornford-May has one big trick up his sleeve in this revival, with both God and Jesus being played by a woman, the plump and charismatic Pauline Malefane. She has such tremendous stage presence, turning from twinkling humour to terrifying anger in the blink of an eye, that her casting never looks like a gimmick... The production is packed with winning stagecraft." The Daily Telegraph

"Call me a heathen cynic but I was not particularly looking forward to this South African musical version of the Chester Mystery Plays, the famous cycle of medieval dramas which aimed at teaching the peasants their religious stories. All credit, then, must go to this vibrant, colourful and unusually powerful production by the Isango Portobello company for its ability to win over atheists like me. It's a bit like the Reduced Shakespeare Company in the way it races through each biblical tale from the creation to Christ's resurrection. But the show's novel simplicity and raw style makes it beguiling while the African music, mainly beaten out on oil drums by the exuberant 33-strong cast, adds to its incredible exhilaration." The Daily Express

"This is and isn't quite the South African version of our own Chester miracle plays that sent even pagan critics into orbit when it came to London in 2002. The gorgeous chant and infectious dance are still there, as is the rough-theatre inventiveness and much of the exuberance. But when you love a show, as I did, you are in danger of being disappointed by its failure to deliver everything you recall... The show has, you still feel, been improvised in an impoverished township and exudes the best of its values. But is it as generous a happening as it was seven years ago? Does it end with as joyous a celebration of a togetherness that is South African yet universal? Of that I am not sure." The Times

The Mysteries in London at the Garrick Theatre previewed from 11 September 2009, opened on 15 September 2009 and closed on 3 October 2009

The Mysteries - Yiimimangaliso - 2002

Previewed 22 February 2002, Opened 26 February 2002, Closed 18 May 2002 at the Queen's Theatre (now Sondheim Theatre) in London

With a cast of over 40 young South African singers, dancers and storytellers, The Mysteries takes its audience on an exhilarating and moving journey through the Bible. It is a passionate, uplifting and visually stunning piece of theatre that celebrates the greatest stories ever told, through the amazing choral voices and hypnotic energy of its miraculous cast.

Following a run at the Wilton's Music Hall, this extraordinary South African production which received such acclaim that its eight week run sold out within 24 hours of the first reviews appearing, now comes into London's West End. Directed by director Mark Dornford-May.

"The Mysteries are more electrifying and experimental, transferring to Shaftesbury Avenue from Wilton's Music Hall. The city of Chester's medieval cycle dramatises Bible stories from the Creation and Adam and Eve, through Christ's life to his Resurrection. Under director Mark Dornford-May, the text is reworked by a 40-strong, fantastically choiring, drumming and dancing cast of South African actors - in tribal and modern dress... When the company slip into their native languages of Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans they can be mesmerising... This production is full of inspired theatrical shorthand. Simultaneously, a layer of meaning is added as the Testaments are used to make reference to the history of Africa." The Independent on Sunday

"By now almost everyone interested in the theatre must have heard of The Mysteries, the remarkable South African reworking of the medieval Chester mystery plays which was first seen at Wilton's Music Hall last summer, and which is now at the Queen's Theatre. It must also be clear from what has been written about it that it is a remarkable event. While the show is very much a collective achievement, a few performances stand out. Andries Mbali is an agile and hyperactive Satan. Sibusiso 'Otto' Ziqubu gets in some splendid clowning as Noah. Above all Vumile Nomanyama is superb (but then nothing less is called for) doubling as God and Jesus. His calm authority would be enough to qualify him as a great actor; so would his groans from the cross." The Sunday Telegraph

"Nothing quite prepared me for the sheer, generous, magnificent exuberance of this show. This is an edited version of the medieval English Mystery cycles, performed in Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans and English, with music, mostly vocal, by a mixed-race, mostly black cast. It is completely faithful to the spirit of its original: it has irresistible energy, unforced piety, a fervent, majestic sense of divine revelation and a warm, earthy humour... The vigorous African dance by Jesus and his disciples is unforgettable: a celebration, like the whole joyous performance." The Sunday Times

Yiimimangaliso - The Mysteries in London at the Queen's Theatre previewed from 22 February 2002, opened on 26 February 2002 and closed on 18 May 2002