Theatre Review: The Lion And The Lamb


John Kani reprises his role as storyteller in ‘The Lion and The Lamb’, currently on stage at the Market Theatre. Here’s what our resident arts and culture fundi thought of this musical retelling of the Christ story. 

John Kani and Barney Simon’s The Lion and The Lamb returned to the Market Theatre in November 2019 to much anticipation. Last produced by the Market Theatre in 2009, this contemporary retelling of the story of Christ is the perfect Christmas-time theatre event. I booked tickets to the show, eager to see Kani in action on stage. Unsure of what to expect, I went in with an open mind and unbiased approach. Needless to say, what I saw was a delightful surprise.

Lion and the Lamb

Musical Storytelling

The Lion and The Lamb is first and foremost a musical play. Opening with a solo performance by the soulful Itumeleng Tshabane, the play begins its first act – The Birth of Christ. Against an eclipsing projected backdrop, Kani enters, taking his place as the main narrator and immediately giving the audience the sense that his performance will be doused with energetic storytelling. His years of stage experience shine through, guiding his fellow narrators through their scenes. Keeping the audience at the edge of their seats, he brings a delicate humour to a story known world over. Interspersed with unique African-isms, Kani’s narration offers a refreshing take on the Christ myth.

A choir of talented gospel songstresses join Kani on stage, including Nokukhanya Dlamini, who was part of the original production. Reprising her role as the lead singer, she elevates the story of Christ’s birth, life and death to new heights. Each ballad of the story is equally narrated by dialogue and song and every choir member given their moment to shine. Not one failed to deliver, taking the audience to church with familiar traditional gospel songs and songs from the International Gospel Songbook. From the first act to the last – Christ’s ascension to heaven – there are moments of celebration. Ultimately, this is musical theatre at its finest.

A Word From The Director

The Market Theatre’s James Ngcobo directs Kani for the first time in his career in The Lion and The Lamb.

“It’s never easy to re-imagine any classic, but I am blessed to work with theatre giants like John Kani and Nokukhanya Dlamini, who were part of the original cast. It makes my task much easier to undertake,” he said of the production.

My vision for the 2019 re-staging of ‘The Lion and the Lamb’ is to add young talented actors and musicians to blow up the musicality and acting in the production. I am blessed to have found some of the finest actors who will be taking the baton from John Kani in roles as supporting storytellers. I am looking at breathing new life into a classic play, handled with the delicateness that it deserves and also to give emerging voices an opportunity to perform alongside a great actor like John Kani”, said James Ngcobo.

Final Thoughts

Promising audiences “a spiritually charged evening of praise and worship”Ngcobo and his cast delivered. All in all, The Lion and The Lamb is an enigmatic theatre experience for all. You need not be familiar with the story of Christ to enjoy or understand the game at hand. Delivering their lines with Shakespearean precision, Kani and his fellow narrators entwine the very best of African storytelling practice with eloquent language and comedic interplay. This is a definite must-see for the Christmas season.

The Lion and The Lamb is on stage at the Market Theatre until Sunday, 22 December 2019. Tickets are available online via Webtickets.

Narrator: John Kani

Musicians: Nokukhanya Dlamini, Avril Mkansi, Gugu Shezi, Itu Tshabane, Hlengiwe Pitso, Lebo Barole, Lerato Gwebu (second narrator), Nomfundo Dlamini, Mpho Somani, Tebogo Mokoena and Thembisa Khuzwayo.

Band Members: Tshepo Mngoma (musical director), Fana Zulu, Mpho Kodisang and Samuel Ibeh.

For More Information

Visit the Market Theatre website for more information, or follow their social media pages:

Facebook: Facebook.com/themarkettheatre

Twitter: Twitter.com/MarketTheatre

Instagram: Instagram.com/markettheatre

Contact the theatre box office on 011 832 1641.

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