WOIC Review: The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency


As Precious Ramotswe’s beloved father (Apollo Ntshoko) lies dying of lung disease from working in the mines, he vows to leave her with enough cattle to start her own business. “[A] hardware store,” he croaks with his dying breath. “People always need nails.” But Mma Ramotswe proudly announces that she will open her own detective agency – a place of safety where everyone can come to her with their problems; an agency open to all the people of Botswana. Upon hearing this, Obed chokes and dies.

The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is an acclaimed series of novels by Scottish writer Alexander McCall Smith, who collaborated on the script for the musical. The spirited and cunning Precious Ramotswe, the only female detective in Botswana, forgoes violence and forensics when solving cases and relies instead on wit and instinct. The series has been adapted for radio and television, and now it makes its stage debut as a musical directed by theatre impresario Nicholas Ellenbogen.

A merry, frivolous and fun affair, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, The Musical clutches your attention from the get-go and never loosens its grip. The kooky cast’s enjoyment of their ownperformance is spellbinding as they lead you on a jovial joyride, playing each of their outlandish characters with enthusiasm and zest. Zoliswa Kawe relishes her role as the voluptuous Mma Ramotswe, “a woman of traditional build”. She is the object of the fumbling JLB Matekoni’s (Apollo Ntshoko) hopeless devotion and is assisted by proud secretarial college graduate Mma Makutsi (Thumeka Mzayiya) who never misses a chance to inform anyone who will listen that she graduated with 97 per cent.

The story is fast-paced and unapologetically slapsti
ck as the actors change sets and characters right before your eyes. Mma Ramotswe’s little white car is transformed into Obed’s  deathbed, while Apollo Ntshoko goes from playing love-struck JLB to being Mma Ramotswe’s dying father with a quick dash beneath a blanket. The three gorgeous beauty queens of the Beauty and Integrity contest are played by men in skintight dresses and curly wigs, holding long, shapely wooden legs.

The music is composed by Freshlyground’s Josh Hawks and features a variety of musical styles including African dance, reggae, pioneer-style jazz, gentle ballads and maskandi music. As a passionate African music lover, I was disappointed at the minimal use of traditional Tswana music, lyrics and dance. This, however, did not hinder my enjoyment of the show. Luvo Tambo was the glowing highlight of the night as he sang and danced with wild energy and abandon, singing “A Snake, A Snake, A Snake!” to the thumping reggae beat.
The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, The Musical is hilariously light-hearted and free-spirited – a charmingly self-deprecating and effortless night out.

Nwabisa Mbana

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, The Musical runs from 6 October to 24 December 2015 at the Grill Room, at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town at 8pm. Tickets cost R 200 – R 250 (R 265 – R 330 for pre-show dinner)


Dates: 6 October – 24 December, Tuesdays – Sundays
Time: 20:00 (with a 20 minute interval)
Price: R250, Optional two-course pre-show dinner at R295
Bookings: To buy tickets click here / Pay at the door using SNAPSCAN
Dinner: Reservations 021 483 1948 / 
Information: Dian 072 942 8102 / dianm@rosebanktheatre.co.z 


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