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The Young Vic presents ‘A Man of Good Hope’

(c) Young Vic

Basing their latest production on a book of the same name by award-winning South African novelist Jonny Steinberg, South African theatre company Isango Ensemble are returning to the Young Vic with a musical adaptation of ‘A Man of Good Hope’.

Basing their latest production on a book of the same name by award-winning South African novelist Jonny Steinberg, South African theatre company Isango Ensemble are returning to the Young Vic with a musical adaptation of ‘A Man of Good Hope’. The story focuses on Asad, a Somalian refugee in Ethiopia as he journeys to South Africa in search of opportunity. However, instead of the new life he has been dreaming of, he finds a society ruptured by xenophobic violence and dangerous crime.

The Young Vic is known for its innovative and varied programme, taking great pride in its focus on fresh, new talent, and striving to tell stories that give audiences new ways in which to view the world. Their upcoming production, A Man of Good Hope, is no different in this regard as it tells a powerful story with a message that resonates on a global-scale.

Jonny Steinberg’s true account of Somalian refugee Asad chronicles this brave man’s journey in search of a better life after he witnesses his mother being murdered. His journey takes him from Somalia to Ethiopia to his final destination, South Africa, where he hopes to have a happier, better life. Asad is determined to make his way to this place of safety in order to become an entrepreneur. However, upon his arrival, he swiftly realises that he has arrived in the worst place he could possibly be.  

When questioned about how the audience might react to such heavy themes, David Lan, the Young Vic’s Artistic Director stated: “The way I like to think about the show is, although it’s about a tough subject, there is so much pleasure in watching these extraordinary, talented people tell the story of their own lives. And the fact that they can tell the story of their own lives because they are essentially global representatives of South Africa who have received refugees into the country in this way, is very uplifting and very moving. It not only tells the story of people undergoing very difficult circumstances but it is also about one man in particular who’s constantly trying to find a good way in the world. The book is called A Man of Good Hope and he is a man of good hope, he’s a man of incredible resilience. When the audiences in Cape Town have seen the show, they’ve gotten to their feet. It’s a powerful piece.”

This is not the first time the Young Vic and Isango Ensemble have collaborated together. Almost a decade ago, the two companies worked together on a co-production of The Magic Flute, which wowed critics and crowds across London on a global tour. Now, the Young Vic and Isango Ensemble are collaborating once more, in conjunction with the Royal Opera House and Repons Foundation in order to bring audiences a musical interpretation of this story of suffering, survival, and hope. A Man of Good Hope will be performed mostly through music with haunting marimbas and superb vocal performances by an immensely talented ensemble. The South African company is made up of a combination of untrained singers from the disadvantaged townships surrounding Cape Town and classically trained professionals. As with most Isango projects, the emphasis on this production is on maintaining a strong African feel and reflecting the continent's multi-faceted heritage.

David Lan, who is from Cape Town himself, loved the experience of working with the Isango Ensemble so much the first time round while doing The Magic Flute that he was extremely eager to collaborate with them again. After reading Steinberg’s novel, he was inspired to put forth the idea of a musical collaboration with the South African group and, eighteen months later, the Young Vic is getting ready for A Man of Good Hope’s opening night. This tale of hope and a man’s pioneering spirit is fitting for a theatre that has seen its own growth expand the world over, bridging continents and culture divides.  The Young Vic undoubtedly has this same pioneering spirit and a desire to educate through the promotion and encouragement of fresh, new talent. Audiences will be overwhelmed by the powerful message of this show, and their horizons will surely be broadened through witnessing these incredible performers who have lived these truths they are acting out. It is with great excitement that the Young Vic is preparing to share the magic of Isango Ensemble and their musical interpretation of a story of hope.

'A Man of Good Hope' runs in the Young Vic’s Main House 6 October – 12 November. It is a Young Vic and Isango Ensemble Production, co-produced by The Royal Opera, Repons Foundation, BAM and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg. Tickets can be booked online.