Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST) critically acclaimed co-production SS Mendi Dancing the Death Drill, which premiered at Southampton’s new theatre NST City, will transfer to the London’s Royal Opera House next Spring.
Based on the book by Fred Khumalo, the musical production tells the startling true story of the sinking of SS Mendi in the Solent in 1917. Dubbed the ‘Black Titanic’, this sinking was one of the worst maritime disasters in the 20th century in UK waters.
Director of Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Sam Hodges said, “It was a profound privilege to work with the brilliant Isango Ensemble to create SS Mendi Dancing the Death Drill. This is a story that had never been told on this scale before and is part of our commitment to bringing to life important stories from Southampton’s rich history. And it has already had effect. Only two weeks ago, Theresa May returned to South Africa the SS Mendi bell which had been temporarily housed at Southampton’s SeaCity Museum. And now with this transfer to one of the world’s leading theatres, a global spotlight can finally be shone on this tragedy."
January 1917, 823 South African men board the SS Mendi in Cape Town, volunteers for the British Army bound for the Western Front. Months later, the ship sails off the coast of Southampton. Heavy pre-dawn fog shrouds the impending disaster. The collision comes with such force the SS Mendi sinks in minutes. By the time rescue arrives it is too late for most.
SS Mendi Dancing the Death ran at Nuffield Southampton Theatres from 29 June to 14 July 2018. It received 5 star reviews from national from critics and standing ovations from audiences. SS Mendi Dancing the Death Drill is a co-production with South Africa’s Isango Ensemble and was commissioned by 14-18 NOW as part of the UK’s national arts programme for the First World War Centenary and the Repons Foundation.
SS Mendi Dancing the Death Drill is at Royal Opera House from 18 April to 4 May 2019.