Westerford High School in Newlands recently brought the iconic South African musical District Six to life. The performance showcased the story’s enduring relevance and captured the original work’s essence. The idea for the production came from the drama teacher, Daniella Brown, who wanted to stage a local story that resonated with the diverse community of Westerford. Despite the pandemic halting rehearsals in 2020, the school persevered and delivered a stunning performance that could have comfortably played at the nearby Baxter Theatre.
The Story of the Musical
District Six – The Musical, written by Taliep Petersen and David Kramer, is based on the forced removals of people from the District Six area of Cape Town during the apartheid era. The production has been performed worldwide and has become a classic in South African theatre. It’s opening lines – ‘When the southeaster blows, in the street called Hanover… wherever we go, District Six. When the southeaster blows, we will remember… wherever we go, District Six’ – have become iconic
A Talented Group of Students
Petersen and Kramer did not direct the production at Westerford. Instead, a talented collection of students rose to the occasion and demonstrated that the youth had something to say. The audience included Loukmaan Adams, recipient of the Lawrence Olivier Award for his performances in the Petersen-Kramer productions. Only the historian and storyteller, Dr. Joe Schaffers, had a broader smile than he did.
The performance was extraordinary, and the children’s performances on stage did the enduring story justice. As the first chords of that acapella song were sung, many audience members’ eyes filled with weeping. As’ad Salie, who portrayed Nines, the commander of the Sexy Boys gang, captivated the audience and seized the show. Casting could not have been better for the love triangle between Mary, Sandy, and Cassiem, which featured potent vocal performances. In addition, Libhongo Lubambo as Damaka, the wise, blind man on the corner of Hanover Street, and Asher Hyde as Mr. Goldman, the Jewish businessman-patriarch of the neighborhood, played their respective roles with aplomb.
More Than Just a Stage Production
The school’s music was more than just a stage production; it was a powerful retelling of a beautiful community’s heartbreaking story. The story of District Six is one of joy, dancing, and singing, but it is also about the pain and suffering of people. According to Brown, the story is still relevant, and nothing is in the history books about District Six. Therefore, the performance was an opportunity to educate the younger generation about this crucial part of South Africa’s history.
The Power of Arts in Educating and Bringing People Together
The performances and production of this school musical, accompanied by live music from the school’s music students, were so good that they could have comfortably played at the nearby Baxter Theatre. It is commendable that Westerford High School took on the challenge of telling a story close to the hearts of many South Africans. The production was an excellent opportunity for the students to learn about the country’s history and to realize the importance of preserving memories and stories. Furthermore, the performance was a testament to the power of the arts in bringing people together and educating them.
We must continue supporting and encouraging the arts in schools and communities, as they play an essential role in shaping our culture and understanding of the past and the present. Overall, the Westerford High School production of District Six – The Musical was a remarkable achievement that will be remembered for years..