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.
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.