Arrow down iconArrow left iconArrow right iconArrow up iconAudio iconBasket iconClose iconDocument iconExclamation mark iconMenu iconPhoto iconQuotation markQuote iconTick iconUser icon

SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill

18 April—4 May 2019
Linbury Theatre

Isango Ensemble re-tell the story of a real-life, tragic maritime disaster, based on the book by Fred Khumalo.

When to see it

The Story

In early 1917, the SS Mendi set sail from Cape Town, taking hundreds of black South African volunteers to support the Allied forces fighting in France.

Read more… (Contains spoilers)


Award-winning South African lyric theatre company Isango Ensemble make their first appearance in the Linbury Theatre. Isango has won worldwide acclaim for vibrant productions that reimagine the classics in inventive new contexts – previous productions include U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, The Magic Flute – Impempe Yomlingo and A Christmas Carol – Ikrismas Kherol.

SS Mendi: Dancing the Death Drill, based on the book by Fred Khumalo, is a powerful and moving requiem inspired by a real-life tragic maritime disaster. A group of individuals from conflicting cultures becomes united in a final dance as the ship goes down. This is the first London showing of the production after a hugely successful UK premiere at Nuffield Southampton Theatres. The premiere was one of the 14–18 NOW WW1 Centenary Art Commissions. This remarkable ensemble transforms hard experience into affirmations of life.