A Man Of Good Hope Review

If you are wanting a thought-provoking night at the theatre, look no further than A Man of Good Hope, performing for the first time at the Linbury Theatre at the Royal Opera House.

A Man of Good Hope is based on the book of the same name by Jonny Strindberg, about real-life refugee Asad Abdullahi. The play begins with an older Asad talking to Jonny, recounting his arduous journey through Africa as a refugee. When Asad is 8 years old, his mother is murdered. He leaves his home in war-torn Mogadishu and tries to search for a better life, all the while meeting people who will leave a mark on his life. The story takes us from 1991 to 2011 when Jonny met Asad.

This powerful story is at its core a story of identity, belonging, community and hope. Although set in Africa and with rich African roots, the sense of displacement and troubles he faces, could be the story of many refugees today.

Director and Artistic Director of Isango Ensemble Mark Dornford-May and movement director Lungelo Ngamlana have created a vivid, moving narrative. Using minimal props and sets, the actors tell Assad’s story of his belief in hope and a better future in a mesmerising way. Asad is played by three cast members to depict his stages of life as a young boy, a young man and an older man, and each was fantastic in their own way. They bought Assad’s joy and his sorrow to life.

One of the most amazing aspects of the production was the music, which was composed and conducted by co-musical director Mandisi Dyantyus with assistance of co-musical director Paulina Malefane. Their colourful musical score along with different styles of music transported us to the various African countries Asad journeys through. This includes a Kenyan tune, an Ethiopian lament and an aria for when Asad meets his wife. Traditional African instruments like marimbas are used to create the rich, vibrant feel of Africa. The 23 member ensemble, some of whom are classically trained, enthral in their singing and vocally created day and night sounds.

A Man of Good Hope is an Isango Ensemble And Young Vic production co-produced by The Royal Opera, Repons Foundation, BAM and Les Theatres de la Ville de Luxembourg. It is the second time the play will be in London, with the first occurring in 2016 after its premier in Cape Town.

Isango Productions is a grass-roots South African company based in Cape Town founded in 2000 by Mark Dornford-May and Paulina Malefane. They have previously collaborated with Young Vic to bring the Olivier award-winning The Magic Flute (Impempe Yomlingo) and Christmas Carol (Ikrismas Kherol) to the West End. Along with A Man of Good Hope, they are currently performing SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill at Lindbury Theatre.

The intimate venue of the Lindbury Theatre is perfect for such a production. This theatre is on the lower ground floor of the newly renovated Royal Opera House. There is now an open, modern foyer with glass windows, and the cafe is open from 10am selling hot and cold drinks as well as savoury and baked foods.

Isango Ensemble alternates performances of A Man of Good Hope with SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill, which ONIN London reviewed on 18th April. A Man of Good Hope performs on 20th, 25th, 27th and 29th April and 1st and 3rd May at 7:45pm. There is also a performance on 4th May at 2:30pm.

Address: Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, 35-36 Bow Street, WC2E 9DD


Phone: 0207 304 4000 (open 10am-8pm Monday to Saturday)

Instagram: @royaloperahouse


Written by Caitlin Neal