Most had never seen the sea, many couldn’t swim, few returned from the
disaster that has been dubbed ‘The Black Titanic’.
January 1917, 823 South African men board the SS Mendi in Cape Town, volunteers for the British Army bound for the Western Front.
Heavy pre-dawn fog shrouds the impending disaster in The English Channel. The collision comes with such force that the SS Mendi sinks in minutes. The colliding vessel sustains only minor damages. The captain does nothing for the men in the water. By the time rescue finally arrives, it is too late for most.
Dubbed the ‘Black Titanic’, the sinking of SS Mendi was one of the worst maritime disasters in the 20th Century. 646 perished.
SS Mendi – Dancing the Death Drill is a powerful and moving celebration of life at the moment of death, based on Fred Khumalo’s historical novel and staged and performed by Cape Town’s award-winning Isango Ensemble. The play’s world premiere in Southampton received wide critical acclaim.
“The final death drill — a stamping, ferocious dance, the performers armed with spades and pickaxes, eyes blazing — has a potency that knocks the breath from your body.” – THE TIMES