SS Mendi Dancing the Death Drill

Most had never seen the sea, many couldn’t swim, few returned - At NST City

29 June, 2018 - 14 July, 2018

  • 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, Nuffield Southampton Theatres.

The world première of 



Based on a book by Fred Khumalo.

Adapted by Isango Ensemble & Gbolahan Obisesan.

Music by Isango Ensemble & Mandisi Dyantyis.

Directed by Mark Dornford-May.


Friday 29th June - Saturday 14th July

At NST City

Panel Discussion: 11 Jul 17:30

Audio Described: 14 Jul 14:30

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. Through a tragic twist of fate, Pitso Motaung finds himself aboard.

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. Paris, 1958. Two men are dead in a restaurant, attacked by the head waiter Pitso Motaung. Dark memories etched in Pitso’s mind are resurfacing decades later to devastating effect.

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.


Fred Khumalo


Gbolahan Obisesan


Isango Ensemble


Mark Dornford-May