At the Johannesburg Civic Theatre

This play’s PR team would have us believe that Soweto Story is South Africa’s first Broadway-quality production, and Packed House’s latest offering certainly does have the props, the cast and the score to live up to such a lofty comparison.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, but more obviously similar to West Side Story, the play tells the story of the wealthy Thwalas and the poor Kheswas, rivals in the taxi industry who are dragged into a bitter feud when their respective children, Thandi and Vuyani, fall deeply in love. The problem for Vuyani (honey-voiced Aubrey Poo), of course, is that Thandi (Nkoto Malebye) has already been promised to a wealthy, pompous heir to another family fortune.

What starts out as a hilarious, witty and jubilant celebration of the street culture of South Africa’s most famous town becomes a teary, powerful love story with an ending that will tear you to pieces unless you have a stone for a heart.

Janine Neethling and Zwai Bala’s powerful compositions fuse hip-hop, soul, R&B, kwaito and just about everything else to concoct the perfect soundtrack to today’s Soweto – a place full of hope and celebration, bit one that will always carry with it the memory of its tortured past. If Soweto Story is a sign of things to come from local theatre, it is a bright future we have in store.