MARKET OF TALES (AfriCan Theatre Ensemble). Runs through December 3. See Continuing Theatre Listings. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Market Of Tales is an engaging piece of theatre, offering a tasty stew of African songs, dance, costumes and stories. Beginning with the colourful activities of a village market and then seguing into a creation story, the six performers - also the show's creators, along with director Ronald Weihs - relate a series of narratives both mythic and historical. Some have an epic quality, such as the tale of an invincible warrior who's seduced, Samson-like, by a woman from an enemy tribe. Others, like the moralistic fable of the prudent and greedy sons, could have come from the brothers Grimm.
There's rather less charm in the later pieces, about white men trying to trick black rulers out of their mineral rights, or truncated histories of Nelson Mandela, who is introduced as the freedom-fighting Black Pimpernel, and his second wife, Graça Machel.
Sometimes the performances are tentative, but further playing should eliminate the actors' nervousness. There's nothing hesitant, though, in the work of Teddy Masuku or choreographer/performer Muoi Nene . Musician Waleed Abdulhamid 's seductive voice and playing of a series of fascinating instruments are a show of their own, while Judith Sandiford 's design and projections fill out the worlds of the stories.
Just as importantly, Market Of Tales has great potential for young audiences. I'd love to see it cut down and touring schools, where its energy and storytelling could turn kids onto theatre and also give them a look at several African cultures.