Having recently returned from Cape Town only to leave for The National Theatre Festival in South Africa in a few days time it feels right and strangely connected to be sat in The Queen Elizabeth Hall this evening to see Lost in The Stars.
Based on Alan paton’s Novel Cry The Beloved Country “Lost in The Stars” is set
in South Africa and written by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson. It was penned in 1950 while Apartheid reigned supreme on the blood soaked southern tip of the great continent of Africa.
The story surrounds Stephen Kumalo an elderly Zulu priest from a village in rural south Africa who must travel to the city in search of his son. Here he discovers Absalom is no longer the man he knew but a criminal wrapped in the dark forces of the Johannesburg
underworld. The death of a white man ensues.
So what does it take for jewish writer Kurt Weill to choose such contentious subject
matter and explore it within this populist format. Imagine a musical today on a story in Rawanda or Bosnia. It wouldn’t happen in the west end. It takes integrity and imagination and risk. Considering this was 1950’s America, no stranger to Apartheid of its own, Kurt Weill was sticking hiss neck out. Literally and nailing his colours to the flag.
It is indicative of Southbank’s Artistic director Jude Kelly to uncover such a play. Not only is the language of the play unsullied by the devisive language of “political correctness” but it has a cast of at least sixty percent black actors. Strange that this is obvious when it happens whereas it should be obvious when it doesn’t.
We are often bound by our tidy perceptions of the past. But art will always out the true confusions, misconceptions and secrets resolved. No better three words for the tale in this musical theatre and any musical theatre worth its salt.
But of the vehicle… . It is clear where the action is, where the musicians are, the singers, the actors…. There are at least twenty five people upon the stage for most of the piece. They are in turn visible and invisible such is the direction of Jude Kelly and the casting and vocal coaching of Mary King. I have not reviewed the music which I thoroughly enjoyed. My only question would be of the lighting… You may read The Times four star review here.
The audience were standard BBC radio three concert goers who relished this
new world. The time passed too quickly. The “concert” was about two hours with a break in the middle but time passed in the blink of an eye. The applause was enough to indicate that this piece of theatre deserves more than a showing than two nights.