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Friday, February 10, 2017

In Context: A Man of Good Hope

South Africa’s Isango Ensemble delivers a riveting adaptation of a young Somali refugee’s story, driven by the company’s powerhouse vocals and signature marimba. Context is everything, so get closer to the production through our series of curated links, videos, and articles. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #AManofGoodHope.

Program Notes

A Man of Good Hope (PDF)


Unsafe and Unwelcome: The Impossible Life of a Refugee (BAM blog)
Illustrator Nathan Gelgud explores Asad Abdullahi's odyssey of displacement.

The Man of Good Hope (BAM blog)
A note from Jonny Steinberg about how he came to tell the story in A Man of Good Hope.

Searching for a Promised Land in South Africa (The New York Times)
Isango opens up about its transition from classical interpretations to this contemporary, issue-driven work.

Watch & Listen

Clan Song (SoundCloud)
One of the production’s complex a cappella choral music pieces.

100 seconds with Jonny Steinberg (YouTube)
The author of the book that inspired the show discusses his adaptation with the Young Vic.

A Journey across Africa (YouTube)
Isango’s music scores this graphic depiction of the real journey undertaken by the Somali main character in A Man of Good Hope.

'Man of Good Hope' chronicles a Somali refugee story in SA (YouTube)
South Africa’s “Morning Live” news program interviews Isango’s musical director Mandisi Dyantis about the show’s relevance to current issues of xenophobia.

Interview with Jonny Steinberg (SoundCloud)
An interview with author Jonny Steinberg about the writing of his book.

Now your turn...

What did you think? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below and on social media using #AManofGoodHope.


  1. A Man of Good Hope is a timely piece of theater in a time of xenophobic free fall. The raw, simple production was a far cry from the slick, over produced content on offer generally, making the production personal and abrasive. All the content was cloaked in the language which was cloaked in the music giving the viewer a little distance between their xenophobia and our own. What a tragic story. We have no idea of the human tragedies that have resulted from colonialism and imperialism. What will we do about that? That was the question on my heart when I left the theater. This has to be one of the best community theater ensembles in the world - musicians, vocalists, actors and mimes. Truly impressive.

  2. The staging by the South African troupe is compelling in its simplicity, and its effectiveness in communicating the passage of time and of change from one country to another. Much of the narrative is sung; the voices and the harmonies are gorgeous. But this is not a pleasant evening of theater. It is dark and heartbreaking. It comes to an end when Asad gets his papers for America, a place where he believes there are no guns, no gangs, and everyone is rich. He is currently living with his family in Kansas City.
    See this if you can, before the next Executive Order is issued.

  3. I thought this theater production was magnificent, transforming. The story is so current,not only because ofthe internally displaced on the continent, but also the millions that are displaced worldwide. Isango Ensemble is magical, thank you!

  4. A tender and gracious performance

  5. This was such a beautiful, uplifting and inspiring performance. The three standing ovations say it all.

  6. Great Performance! It was deep, funny, the songs were moving. It should have run longer than a weekend. In fact, it should have went 3 to 4 weeks!

  7. Having spent a fair amount of my life in several of the countries depicted in this production, I could not stop the flow of tears -- almost from the first moment of remarkable marimba playing to the final scene. And I know author Jonny Steinberg, a brilliant South African journalist whose previous works have included similarly intimate portrayals of HIV in rural South Africa. The entire staging of Jonny's book was brilliant, with singing and multiple marimba=playing that reached operatic moments.

    I was left, in the end, wondering what happened to Assad when he reached the USA. Did he end up alongside thousands of other Somalis in the Detroit area? Did he find companions, work, warmth. peace? He got in before Trump's election -- but what of the friends and family he left behind: Are they now blocked by Trump's immigration EO?