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Edinburgh Fringe 2015

Ndebele Funeral

Smoke and Mirrors Collaborative

Genre: Drama, New Writing

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

Two friends find themselves unravelling their friendship, their histories, and the situation of South Africa in the face of a tragic situation.


Ndebele Funeral explores poverty, health-care, politics, friendship, and destiny in a performance that incorporates music and dance into the tale set in a shack of South Africa.

The central characters are wonderfully written, the woman living in a dirty, broken down shack is strong, feisty, and proud. She is also dying. It is easy to see her strength is a facade and she is struggling yet her pride is too strong for her to willingly let anyone see that. The friend who comes to visit her is bold and funny, full of light and the need to create happiness which is incredibly infectious. His horror at her living situation is barely contained and feels genuine as he tries to tidy up when she’s not looking and hides his disgust at the seats he must sit on. He is played with great energy and enthusiasm making him a highly likeable character.

Their friendship is excellent to watch, there is such warmth and familiarity to it that it is difficult not to get drawn into their stories, and their bickering. There is much to be learnt from these seemingly insignificant exchanges, their personalities, and histories play out between the dialogue and when it becomes obvious how ill she is it is easy to worry for both parties. The story does tail off slightly and I feel some of the emotion is lost near the end as the plot becomes a little too overwrought and farcical.

Traditional South African song and dance slot into the performance nicely at certain points and add another layer to it, a layer of tradition, and solidarity which cements what is at the core of the piece. They talk of Facebook, current TV shows, and current affairs rooting it in the present day yet it jars with the setting of the delapitated shack. Even with broad media coverage of the world as it is, it is still difficult when faced with how some parts of the world have to live and how different it is from the world the audiences themselves live in.

There are many very real issues raised with Ndebele Funeral, many of which are political, the expense of medicines is a problem in many countries – not just the third world countries that instantly come to mind – as is the living conditions and the way the governments like to think they are doing things to help when in fact they are not. There are also discussions on how destiny is shaped and how much of a hand we have in shaping our own, and on dreams that slipped away. All very relatable and raises interesting debates.

Ndebele Funeral is a competent piece of theatre with heart though it lacks definition at times and tries too hard to create that external conflict as opposed to focusing on the subtle conflicts that spoke volumes. I’m happy to recommend you see it.