The Mysteries – Yiimimangaliso

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The Mysteries – Yiimimangaliso is a workshopped multilingual operatic play by Mark Dornford-May and the original cast.

Depending on where it is played or discussed, the play is sometimes billed as Yiimimangaliso - The Mysteries, The Mysteries: An Epic Biblical Drama, or simply The Mysteries (inter alia on the website of the producers, Isango Portobello).

(Not to be confused with the 1977 production of an adaptation of the Wakefield mystery cycle by Tony Harrison, produced as The Mysteries by the National Theatre in London[1])

The original text

Originally developed by Mark Dornford-May and the Broomhill Opera Company with the South African cast as a workshopped production at the Spier estate in Stellenbosch. The multilingual play includes dialogue and songs in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Tswana and Zulu.

Based on the medieval Chester Mystery plays, focusing on various stories from the Bible.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

2001: First staged as part of the Spier Festival (in collaboration with Broomhill Opera Company) in December 2000 to January 2001 in the Spier Amphitheatre, directed by Mark Dornford-May, with a multi-cultural cast of 34 amateur players including Vumile Nomanyama (as Jesus), Andries Mabalo Mhali (as Lucifer) and Sibusiso Ziqubu (as Noah). Music and musical direction by Charles Hazlewood.

2001: Staged by the Broomhill Opera Company and the Spier Festival at Wilton's Music Hall, London in July, in repertory with U-Carmen by the same company.

2002: Transferred to the West End to open at the Queen's Theatre on 26 February, under the auspices of the Isango Portobello company.

2002-2008: Went on tour internationally, playing in theatres from Dublin to Tokyo.

2009: Revised and restaged by Isango Portobello, it opened at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town, then played at the Garrick Theatre, London and the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. The new version had one signigificant change: God and Jesus were now played by a woman (Pauline Malefane). Musical direction of the new version was by Mandisi Dyantyis and Pauline Malefane, choreography by Lungelo Ngamlana, lighting by Mannie Manim, costumes by Leigh Bishop and Fagrie Nasiep and puppetry by Aja Marneweck.

2010: Now produced by the Isango Ensemble, it played the opening season of The Fugard theatre in Cape Town.


Sunday Independent, 17 December 2000.

Review by Betsy Rudelich Tucker, Theatre Journal (Vol. 54, No. 2 - May, 2002)[2]

Review by Julie Carpenter, Express, Fri, Sep 18, 2009[3]

Mark Shenton, Playbill, 11 September, 2009[4]

Citizen, 18 December 2000.

The Star, 20 December 2000.

Business Day, 20 December 2000.

The Star, 12 March 2002.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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