INALA – Bringing South African Magic to Britain


“It will be a somewhat abstract visceral experience, one with a general theme of life in a South Africa but one that is presented in a way so that each audience member can interpret and experience their own journey,” say the producers of Inala, Ella Spira, Sir Howard Panter and Pietro Mello-Pittman.

Subtitled ‘A Zulu Ballet’, Inala is an evocative blend of powerful singing and dancing from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, enchanting music from Spira and the Inala Ensemble and the breath-taking choreography of Rambert Dance Company director Mark Baldwin performed by Rambert members and alumni.

Originally premiered at the Edinburgh Festival last summer, Inala showcases life in South Africa through somehow abstract and somehow narrative vignettes, and true to the producers’ vision, the scantily decorated stage that relies heavily on the projected skyline and a few wooden props, becomes a blank canvas upon which we project our own visions.

The day starts with the chaotic chirrup of the cicadas and carried on with rhythmic pace as dancers move to the choral sounds of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and a series of eerie sounds of nature recreated from birds’ squawk to intimidating thunder. The most joyful parts are the vocals, leaving you almost wishing that the man-made instruments were completely stripped, except for perhaps the percussions.

What follows is jerky, knee bending, foot shuffling moves of the choir juxtaposed with jive, high kicks, pirouettes and ballroom swing of the professionals. Exotic birds come alive in dazzling avian head-dresses by Georg Meyer-Wiel, a pair of lovers outperform each other in a gorgeous romantic tête-à-tête, thunder in the wild and a midnight voodoo are truly stir awe.

While, for me, the first part was still much of a warm up into this magical African hinterland, the magic of music and dance came alive in the second part with a crescendoing finale – a heart-warming grand finale where both the dancers’ and the singers’ personalities shine through with an “abundance of goodwill” – incidentally the meaning of the title ‘Inala’ in Zulu.

Inala is at Sadler’s Well till 11 July then touring till 2 August.

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