NST, Nuffield Southampton Theatres | What's On Southampton


SS Mendi Dancing the Death Drill

29 June, 2018 - 14 July, 2018

‘A potency that knocks the breath from your body. It could hardly be a better memorial to those victims of fate that has for so long been widely ignored. It’s unforgettable.’ ***** The Times

  • wheelchair access
  • signed perfomance
  • hearing enhancement
  • audio description
  • assistance dogs

A Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Isango Ensemble co-production co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, Repons Foundation and Nuffield Southampton Theatres.

The world première of 



Friday 29th June - Saturday 14th July at NST City

Based on a book by Fred Khumalo

Adapted by Isango Ensemble and Gbolahan Obisesan

Post-show Q&A: 9 Jul

BSL & Audio Described: 14 Jul 14:30

Running Time: Approx 1hr 30mins (No Interval)

Recommended age: 12+

Most had never seen the sea, many couldn’t swim, few returned.

January 1917, 823 South African men board the SS Mendi in Cape Town, volunteers for the British Army bound for the Western Front. 

Heavy pre-dawn fog shrouds the impending disaster. The collision 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 in Southampton waters. Yet, a startling story of hope and courage emerges. Brought to life with live music by the critically acclaimed Cape Town based Isango Ensemble and part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s Arts Programme for the First World War Centenary.

SS Mendi is a powerful and moving celebration of life at the moment of death. A group of men who start out on their journey as individuals, small groups from different tribes, with conflicting cultures and worldviews, become united into a group of brothers who dance the death drill as the boat goes down.



“Poignantly beautiful”

The Guardian



“Knocks the breath from your body”

The Times



"Like nothing I have seen before”

Broadway World



“a powerful emotional story… a show and a story that deserves greater exposure” 

Pocket Sized Theatre



“An otherworldly requiem”

The Stage



Claire Béjanin


Mark Dornford-May


Mandisi Dyantyis

Music Director

Lungelo Ngamlana


Fred Khumalo


Mannie Manim

Lighting Designer

Lesley Nott Manim

Speech and Dialogue Coach

Sandile Mgugunyeka

Stage Management

Valencia Mgugunyeka

Stage Management

Gbolahan Obisesan


John Page

Production Manager

Maris Sharp

Company Manager

Isango Ensemble



Thobile  Dyasi

Thobile Dyasi

Jack Ellis

Jack Ellis

Nombongo  Fatyi

Nombongo Fatyi

Zamile  Gantana

Zamile Gantana

Nontsusa  Louw

Nontsusa Louw

Nolubabalo  Mdayi

Nolubabalo Mdayi

Zoleka  Mpotsha

Zoleka Mpotsha

Thandolwethu  Mzembe

Thandolwethu Mzembe

Nonkululeko  Nkwinti

Nonkululeko Nkwinti

Sonwabo  Ntshata

Sonwabo Ntshata

Cikizwa  Rolomana

Cikizwa Rolomana

Masakane  Sotayisi

Masakane Sotayisi

Ayanda  Tikolo

Ayanda Tikolo

Somila  Toyi

Somila Toyi

Tickets starting at: £27, £22, £17, £10

Tickets for this production start at the prices above. Make sure you book quickly, as demand for tickets increases, prices may change.

Book now to get the best prices.

For Wheelchair and Disability bookings, please call the Box Office for availability.

Groups of 10 or more save! Contact the Box Office for best available rates.

Student tickets - £10