Review: The Suitcase at Liverpool Playhouse

By Andy Green

  IT seems like an age since I was last at the Playhouse and it felt very good to be back for the first press night of the new season.

The Market Theatre has brought The Suitcase to Liverpool on the last leg of a north of England tour which started at the Hull Truck Theatre as part of the city’s UK City of Culture programme.

The Market Theatre was founded in Johannesburg in 1976 and went on to become internationally renowned as South Africa’s ‘Theatre of the Struggle’.

The Suitcase is set in 1950’s apartheid South Africa and tells the story of a young couple who leave their village for the bright lights of the big city. Timi, played by Siyabonga Caswell Thwala, tries and fails to find a job and with mounting desperation he steals a suitcase from a bus, the contents of which only make matters worse, much worse.

The Suitcase was originally created by director James Ngcobo and the sublime music composed by the legendary Hugh Masekela.

There are four actors, three singers and a guitarist on the stage for the full 90 minutes, no interval show.

This production is pretty much perfect. As a reviewer there’s always something that niggles – even if you keep it to yourself – but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with The Suitcase. Nothing.

All of the actors (Siyabonga Caswell Thwala, Masasa Lindiwe Mbangeni, Molatlhegi Desmond Dube and Nhlanhla John Lata) deliver warm, heartfelt and utterly believable performances.

The three singers (Gugulethu Shezi, Penelope Nomfundo Smabo and Nokokhanya Gugulethu Dlamini) are out of this world, their outstanding vocals would put any pop diva to shame.  

Guitarist Bhekisisa Sifiso Makhosonke Khoza is a master of his craft and had me spellbound. The music in The Suitcase is simply superb – but what would you expect from Hugh Masekela?

What a way to open the new season at The Playhouse! It’s on until Saturday 7 October, get there if you can.