Monday, 3 June 2013

Africa Entsha - 5 stars in Brighton

Africa Entsha will be performing in a number of places during the Buxton Fringe - including our own party-in-the-park Fringe Sunday on July 7th. Meanwhile they are touring England and here is what the reviewer in Brighton had to say.

A Cappella prevails across Edinburgh Fringe in August. Less so in Brighton in May.
Five young men, casual suited, warm-hearted and loaded with stories from African history. This is, in fact, largely song and movement, rhythm and harmony. The hour flies by and so many songs are packed in, the pace never lets up. 
 
It isn't the English weather that has brought this fine five to our shores but an infectious restlessness to share. (They even sang happy birthday to someone in the lobby afterwards)!
 
The sheer verve, energy, talent and courageous simplicity makes this an unmissable experience at the Old Courtroom. The quality of all five is very high and none upstages - they've set the level consistently across the quintet. There are different leads for, and during, different songs, but these aren't just songs - there's narrative in the way they move, micro-stories spring up and fade suddenly away like a speeded up movie of a garden over a year. The variety is a feast for the eyes and the ears, as singing and talking blend with dancing and stepping, gesturing and smiling. Individuals pop out of the group and we engage with them as the supporting four do just that - support in the background. This blend of ensemble and emergence of individual set pieces keeps the variety of the show fresh, unpredicatble and vibrant.
 
Between singing are interludes of spoken introduction and explanation - not too much to get in the way of playful ensemble step work, clapping and body rhythm and, of course,  music born of Life's energy. We find out things, but mostly we lap up things.
 
We learn about music and about South Africa along the way. We watch them range the styles of music from around the world and through the years but root in the African Heart with ten feet, a hundred fingers and some tongue clicking for easy expert percussion.
 
They've created a unique style and, in places, we are in the playful jazz of life and song.  In a few other places its almost too busy for its own good. But so often five human voices take flight and the song soars that  you just have to accept that, like a fast-paced comedy, you won't take it all in first time round. Let it wash over you, and through you.
 
I enjoyed the bits of spoken narrative and wish they didn't disappear towards the end. The second half became more of a parade of songs but each was different, infectiously foot tapping, and full of heart.
 
These are set pieces, each with its own visual narrative and, and best of all, it's own unique mood. This is theatre, this is cabaret, this is dance and this is music gig all rolled into one with a decent dose of playful comedy. It's this variety in the mix that adds to the outstanding brew. A history of music and culture, never too intense yet intense in its impact. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and have to tell you this is one of the hottest tickets at the Old Courtroom.
 
Outstanding: Outstanding because of the unique alchemy, blending comedy, dance, physical ensemble movement, spoken word and rhythm in a way that creates vibrant, life-affirming impact. Huge talent, clever choreography delivered with a collective natural style - a celebration of much, in a way that pitches itself with its audience not to it.  And these young performers achieve this with maturity and poise that serves as a sure-footed through line throughout the entire show.
 
And the message? Never let go of your dreams. Thank you, Africa Entsha, for bringing your sunshine to a rather chilly Brighton. Here's five well deserved stars in return.

Reviewed by Paul Levy 23rd May 2013