Hot on the heels of “Mayflower Theatre’s” hugely successful Titanic the Musical, Nuffield Southampton Theatres City (NST City) presents the story of a second “Titanic” disaster - the world premiere of SS Mendi Dancing the Death Drill, opening 29 June-14 July, which commemorates an untold tragedy from the First World War that took place off the coast of Southampton.
January 1917, 823 South African men board the SS Mendi in Cape Town, volunteers for the British Army bound for the Western Front via Southampton. On 21 Feb 2017, heavy pre-dawn fog shrouds the impending disaster. The collision, off shore in The Solent, comes with such force that the SS Mendi sinks in minutes. By the time rescue arrives, it is too late for most.
Dubbed the ‘Black Titanic’, the sinking of SS Mendi was one of the worst maritime disasters in the 20th century.
Part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s official arts programme for the First World War centenary, SS Mendi Dancing the Death Drill is now a new play based on the book by Fred Khumalo and adapted for the stage by Gbolohan Obisesan and the internationally renowned Cape Town-based company Isango Ensemble.
Director of Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Samuel Hodges said: “It’s a real privilege to be working with a company of the calibre of Isango Ensemble on this previously untold story from Southampton’s past. For a story of this magnitude to have been whitewashed from the history books beggars belief and we’re proud to be developing the world premiere, continuing NST’s commitment to telling local stories of national and international significance.’’
Michael Ockwell, Mayflower Theatre Chief Executive added: “It is important for Southampton to commemorate its maritime history as we are the gateway to the world. We were privileged to have launched the UK tour premiere of Titanic the Musical last week, and it is fitting that another premiere of an untold maritime story is launched from NST City in June.”