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A Christmas Carol and The Magic Flute at the Young Vic

Marion Marples

The Young Vic has two infectiously exciting contrasting but complementary Christmas shows this winter.

The lively and versatile South African cast and production team Isango/Portobello which first came to London with The Mysteries four years ago fill the Young Vic with fantastic sounds and verve and laughter.

In A Christmas Carol it is easy to recall the energy and noise of that earlier production. It begins with a dramatic set piece scene of miners working below ground and deafened by machinery. But take note of the women gathering and gossiping before the lights go down – we later see their lives in the context of township life under and post apartheid.

We meet a heartless female Scrooge (the powerful Pauline Malefone), rich but lonely and hard. She is visited by ancestral African spirits. Flashbacks to her earlier poor township life are shown on a huge screen behind the stage with the cast performing in real time on the stage. But her wealth has been at the expense of the poor and she has lost her humanity.

Redemption comes at last and she finds she can sing again. Dickens' A Christmas Carol is a new gospel against want and ignorance; if you recognise the religious overtones it is doubly powerful.

The Magic Flute is a complete revelation. Mozart's familiar music is recreated by the whole company on marimbas, drums and percussion, energetically conducted by the brilliant lithe Mandisi Dyantyis who dances and sways throughout. The operatic recitatives and arias morph into African song -dances. And these are the same versatile people who perform A Christmas Carol.

The familiar quest of Prince Tamino (Mhlekazi Andy Mosiea) who rescues Pamina (Philisa Sibecko) daughter of the Queen of the Night (Pauline Malefone again) from the Priest of the Sun explodes with energy and dance. Papageno (Zamile Gantana) gets his Papagena (Thozamo Mdliva). Director Mark Dornford-May somehow makes Mozart an African. The costumes and ingenious props complete the evening's total enjoyment.

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