Mary Brennan, The Herald Scotland
INALA at Edinburgh Playhouse
REVIEW: 12 August 2014
WHEN Ladysmith Black Mambazo (LBM) start to sing, the rhythms that flow out of their a cappella music just make you want to dance - and indeed the group themselves are never static when they perform.
But Inala - given its world premiere in Edinburgh on Sunday - takes this irresistible impulse to a whole new level by bringing together trained dancers from classical and contemporary backgrounds with LBM.
The ambition doesn't really end there. Composer Ella Spira has worked with LBM and sound designer Adrian Rhodes to create a score that catches at both rural and city life in South Africa.
Meanwhile, choreographer Mark Baldwin has brought LBM physically into step with the dancers, in sequences where the sharing speaks of an integration that would have been unthinkable before the end of apartheid 20 years ago.
So do all these elements marry up in the "abundance of goodwill" that is one meaning of the word Inala?
There is, for sure, a tremendous feel-good energy that has the audience clapping between sections. But at times the absence of a narrative through-line undercuts the idea of this being a Zulu ballet.
What does emerge is how South Africa's traditional culture, and the diaspora from homelands to mining camps, informs LBM's music-making, and this comes to the fore when the singing evokes bird-like spirits or conjures up images of community life.
And there are welcome surprises: a pointe-work duet that floats on the lyrical LBM singing is exquisite.
When everyone is en masse, revelling in the high-kicking, shimmying and swaying that are signature LBM moves, it's an abundantly life-affirming show.
By MARY BRENNAN