Tin Bucket Drum Pounds With Life

In the one-woman show, Mpurme Mothombeni beams as she shows off her many, many faces.

Imagine a world with no music: no drums, no rhythms, no strings, no nothin'. Tin Bucket Drum, a play imported from South Africa, shares the story of a cruel African dictatorship that fiercely eliminates all attempts at music because of the archaic belief that it inspires unlawful and ungodly behavior.

This one-woman show (supported by a drummer) is more dramatic storytelling than traditional play, as Mpurme Mothombeni takes on roughly 10 characters to tell the tale of this unjust town. Following a well-paced script by Neil Coppen, she dynamically shifts from child to parent to judge, using a range of voices, hand props. and dramatic physical shifts to illustrate the differences among them. Sometimes, she leaps on a table as one of the leaders trying to make a point. Other times, she slams that table to the ground as a community member refuting that same point. Often, she fluidly dances around the stage while dramatically narrating. It's a whirlwind that could easily slip out of control, but Mothombeni's stays focused throughout the chaos, driven by Wake Mahlobo's percussion. The result is a lovely balance of disarray and harmony.

One of Mothombeni's many faces
Val Adamson
One of Mothombeni's many faces


Tin Bucket Drum
By Neil Coppen
The Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street
212-777-6088, horsetrade.info

The plot may be straightforward—this child wants to make music; she can't; that's unfair—but under the swift direction of Karen Logan, Mothombeni uses this simplicity as a gift, handling the material both gracefully and forcefully. Combine her acting talents with expressive lights, creative shadow puppetry, and rumbling drums, and the 90-minute show zips by. In a theater world full of high-flying superheroes and next-level spectacles, Tin Bucket Drum charmingly reminds us that, ultimately, what matters most is the story.