Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
placeholder article
placeholder article

Review: Africarmen at The Nottingham Lakeside Arts Djanogly Theatre

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nottingham chapter.

Feisty, emotionally evocative and vibrant – 4.5 STARS

Africarmen is Tavaziva’s contemporary dance interpretation of Carmen, French composer Georges Bizet’s popular opera.  Africarmen recreates this classic opera, complimenting it with a harmony of original Africa-inspired composition by Fayyaz Virji, set design by Joseph Bisat Marshall and the direction of Africa-born Bawren Tavaziva.

Africarmen tells the story of one oil-rich village in Africa where military despotism operates under the tyrannical Bhurumashanga (Jordan Bridge). The villagers wish for freedom, no more so than the charming and beautiful Carmen (Lisa Rowley). Carmen soon disrupts the marriage of a local couple (Theo Samsworth and Anna Watkins) and more destruction is foretold by the mysterious prophetess N’anaga (Ellen Yilma), but will this be realised?

Everything about Africarmen in the words of Tavaziva himself is “ambitious” and this ambition is realised through the raw emotion the performance evokes. At first I was unsure whether this ambition was too vast to translate well on stage – especially with such a small theatre company. In certain sections it was obvious there were some practical limitations, however, my concerns were largely unfounded.

The first thing you should understand before you see Africarmen is that it probably is not what you’re expecting. The music is not limited to Zulu evocations or drumming, the cast do not look African and the set is not vibrantly adorned with African fabric but sparse and sage.  At first this threw me off – what then was African about this adaptation? As you watch Carmen’s exploits unfold, see Mhondiwa devastated as he is forced to leave his village to join the army and feel the pain of Mawere’s rape through her flurried movements, the answer to this becomes evident. Representing a generic idea of African traditions is becoming obsolete. There is Africa in the varied and emotive musical composition, Africa in the details of the costume and Africa most strikingly embedded in the bold, visceral movements of the characters as they desperately fill the stage in their plight for liberty from the world they inhabit.

The stand-out-feature of Africarmen is its small but mighty exuberance. The eighteen character cast is played by seven dancers. The set is one stand alone cardboard oil rig. The music is ever-present but often recurs.  Yet, the small scale of this theatre company never holds the audience back from its astounding impact.

Powerful storytelling is given life by the dynamism of the dancers and the beauty of the up-to-date choreography; African tribal dances are interplayed with contemporary ballet and, surprisingly, it works. The music is also unconventional, here Fayyaz Virji expertly weaves a tapestry of African drumming, percussion, and melancholic string. The solo performances, however, are what really make Africarmen the innovative and feisty performance it is. The acting as well as the fluidity of performance from the nymph-like, energy-filled Rowley (Carmen) is simply breath-taking and the whole cast follow suit in being bold and brilliant throughout.

For more information about the performance please visit: http://www.lakesidearts.org.uk/theatre/event/2970/africarmen.html


Edited by Georgina Varley

Image sources:



Sophia is a final year English student at the University of Nottingham. Her biggest claim to fame is having met one of the blokes from Horrible Histories on the tube once - when she says 'met' she really means she waved awkwardly. She is often found with her head in a book, pen in hand, watching The Office (US, obviously), eating or trying to tame her massive hair. Sophia hopes one to become a publisher so she can read all the books sent her way as her full time job.
Her Campus Placeholder Avatar
Naomi Upton


Naomi is a third year English student at Nottingham University and Co-Editor in Chief of HC Nottingham. Naomi would love a career in journalism or marketing but for now she spends her time beauty blogging, attempting to master the delicate art of Pinterest, being an all-black-outfit aficionado, wasting time on Buzzfeed, going places, taking pictures and staying groovy.