JOHANNESBURG — Stepping into the life of legendary yet troubled boxer, Ezekiel “King Kong” Dlamini, 60 years after iconic musical King Kong made its debut, has been a thrilling learning curve for lead actor Andile Gumbi.
The musical, which defied the law of apartheid, first graced stages in 1959 and was responsible for launching the careers of music veterans including Hugh Masekela and the late Miriam Makeba.
The world-renowned production is based on a true story about the life of heavyweight boxer King Kong, who ended his own life after murdering his girlfriend.
After six weeks of sold out shows in Cape Town in July, the show opened to a standing ovation in Johannesburg earlier this month.
Lead actor, Gumbi said he learnt valuable life lessons through portraying King Kong and that the complexity of his character often left him emotional.
The actor said even although the story is “reimagined” for a 2017 audience, it was important for them to honour the original production.
“Our director helped us to reimagine the story. It’s like telling the same story just in a different way. In our approach we wanted to honour the original production,” he said.
“Everything from the way we walked, dressed and talked had to reflect the era of the story without losing the innovation element.”
Play director Mdu Kwenyama explained that they were under immense pressure to tell the story correctly, and bring a stellar show to life.
“Firstly, the venue in Johannesburg is bigger and, therefore, there were a lot of technicalities we had to attend to bring an amazing show,” he said.
“But the cast was just amazing and willing to make it work. We also had a lot of pressure to tell the story correctly because it is our story, there is a lot at stake.”