IN THE FREEDOM OF DREAMS: THE STORY OF NELSON MANDELA by Michael Miller, directed by Guillermo Verdecchia, with George Bwanika Seremba, Nehassaiu deGannes, Xuan Secluchete Fraser, Stephen Jennings, Andrew Moodie, Karim Shekou Morgan, Sibongile Nene, Mxolisi Welcome Ngozi and Ngozi Paul. Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (165 Front East). Runs to May 18, various 11 am, 2, 3 and/or 7 pm. $18-$28. 416-862-2222. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Nelson Mandela's story is powerful and inspiring, and Michael Miller's In The Freedom Of Dreams captures many of its key moments. Though at times the work skims over details to cram everything into two hours, it has given the biography a solid theatricality. Using a storytelling technique to introduce the piece, Miller then cleverly divides Mandela's role among three actors, with Ngozi Paul as the boy, Andrew Moodie as the man and George Bwanika Seremba as the senior statesman and narrator.
The first act traces Mandela's Xhosa village youth, where after his father's death he's adopted by the local chief (Mxolisi Welcome Ngozi) and becomes brother and friend to the firstborn, Justice (Karim Shekou Morgan). The second act follows Mandela to Johannesburg and his increasingly politicized conflict with the country's white rulers, his 27-year imprisonment on Robben Island and, after his release, his election as South Africa's president.
At times the script crunches events into a sentence or two, so that we're merely given the gist of a lesson or told rather than shown. But director Guillermo Verdecchia gives the material a strong forward thrust helped by a musically and dramatically talented cast who energetically sing and dance Vivine Scarlett's choreography.
Among the performers, Xuan Secluchete Fraser and Sibongile Nene stand out, but it's Paul's spirited young Mandela, the nuanced Moodie as the lawyer and budding activist and especially Seremba as the warm narrator who ground the show. Seremba deserves special mention, not just for his fine acting but for radiating humanity.