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Review: Dark Noon (Aviva Studios, Manchester)

Review by Jack McCabe




Theatre can make you laugh, think, cry, or even feel anger. Sometimes you have the privilege of experiencing a show that combines them all perfectly. Dark Noon is an experience; a piece of theatre exploring the myth of the wild west while telling the story of the birth of Modern America. Portrayed by a cast of South African performers, European settlers arrive in what ultimately becomes the United States of America. The tagline states “They say history is told by the victors, in Dark Noon, the story is told by the vanquished”. The cast of seven play most of the roles, while the audience play the rest.


Tue Biering both writes the script and directs the production, with Nhlanhla Mahlangu as his co-director and choreographer. Together they present a cinematic production of Biering’s poignant script. The set was mesmerising, the huge setting of Aviva Studios providing a large performance space, representing America, which is gradually built upon as the performance progresses. A screen is utilised not only to project the narration, but also to display live filming of scenes as they take place.  It was one of the most creative sets and sound designs I have encountered, with credit to Johan Kolkjaer and Dtilev Brinth respectively.

It would be wrong to single out any of the seven actors in this production, who are all truly extraordinary. The relatively small cast fills the huge space for 100 minutes, delivering each scene with passion, anger, humour and honesty. Each actor delivered a performance which deserves more credit than this review can provide. I have a feeling that Mandla Gaduka, Katlego Kaygee Letsholonyana, Barileng Malebye, Bongani Bennedict Masango, Siyambonga Aldren Mdubeki, Joe Young and Thulani Zwane are going to take Manchester and, thereafter, New York by storm. The performance concludes with the audience hearing the stories of the actors themselves in a beautiful finale.


The cast use talcum powder on their skin, together with blonde wigs, to personify those who yield power over the powerless. It is a performance which is stylistically varied and dense, with complex themes running throughout. An experience utilising various forms of media, movement and monologues, the audience are taken on a journey where in one moment they are laughing and dancing, and in the next they are silent in shock at the brutal story being told.

This is a powerhouse in immersive, powerful, and poignant storytelling. If you are able to see this show during its short run in Manchester, you will not regret it. It is a truly innovative production not to be missed.


Dark Noon plays at Aviva Studios, Manchester until March 10th



Photos by Sõren Meisner



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