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Zambezi Express
Published on Wednesday, 25 August 2010

3.5 stars

Assembly @ Assembly Hall (venue website)
Until 30 Aug (not 23), 12:00pm (1:15pm)
Reviewed by Susannah Radford

Zambezi Express tells the simple yet universal story of a boy following his dream... a dream many a boy has, to be a world-class (and famous) footballer.  In this play, the boy in question is Mzilikazi, and the Zambezi Express is the local name of the train that will deliver him to his dream.

It’s a show for the family.  There is slapstick and humour, but the main appeal lies in the song and dance that is so enthusiastically and warmly performed.  The 30-strong cast of SIYAYA introduce us to a different world, one set in Zimbabwe; a world where women balance water, food and even sewing machines on their head and dance with balance and grace.  It’s a world of lions and lionesses.  It is really exciting to see such a large cast on stage, giving such texture to the space and creating such a full environment.

Whilst a family show, it’s still anchored in real life.  Mzilikazi (Makhula Moyo) has obstacles to face and overcome in order to reach his goal.  On reaching Johannesburg he and his brothers find themselves in a fight with a local gang, and a necklace, a talisman given to him by his mother, is stolen.  

This is just as much a musical as a piece of theatre.  But the musical numbers, however vibrant and colourful, do slow down the action and don’t particularly build on the story.  For me, Zambezi Express works best in its big set-pieces: the scene-setting opening, the later dramatisation of the football match.  The atmosphere was fantastic, not unlike one you’d find at any pub over here during the World Cup, and the space - both vertical and horizontal - was fully filled in an exciting display of acrobatics and dance.

And I have to mention the standout moment from Sonia Mbaya as an inept cheerleader; with a voice that drags, she lends a lot of humour to the Big Chief scenes.  Overall, Zambezi Express is a fun show for the family that delights the senses.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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