INALA, meaning ‘abundance of goodwill’, celebrates 21 years of democracy in South Africa. The show is a vigorous cultural fusion of the gorgeous rhythms and music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, integrated with Mark Baldwin’s choreographic response, which successfully combines classical and contemporary styles. Right from the start, musicians, singers and dancers were as one body, conversing together in rhythmic harmony against a backdrop that suggested the wide open plains of the savannah, illuminated to show the passage of day and night.

It was deeply frustrating that the theatre had no programmes. The words and mime were clearly full of meaning: men fished, wild creatures seemed to come to the waterhole, lightning struck … but some references were obscure and difficult to understand because of the language barrier, or possibly because they are beyond our own cultural experience. It was the dance that spoke out most clearly throughout.

The performers were all delightfully individual, and sometimes humorous. Among the dancers, I particularly enjoyed watching Jacob O’Connell, whose jumps seemed to hang in the air, and Julia Davies, whose radiant personality filled the stage. Petite and accurate with a light springy jump, she was also impeccably on her centre as she progressed forwards across the stage in a series of développés and arabesques, and then in reverse on demi pointe, gently resting her hand with each singer in turn as she moved backwards. I hope we shall see more of her work.

At the end, the audience gave the entire cast a well-deserved standing ovation.

Maggie Watson

24 June 2015