Idris Elba writes stage show about contemporary South Africa


Idris Elba has co-written a musical theatre production about the “soul and spirit” of contemporary South Africa.

The Thor star, who played South African leader Nelson Mandela in 2013 film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, has teamed up with Kwame Kwei-Armah, the new artistic director of London’s Young Vic theatre, to write Tree, which will combine drama with music, dance and film and premiere at the 2019 Manchester International Festival.

“We’ve both experienced personal moments of healing connected with the country and we’re starting to explore that together,” the Luther actor said in a statement. “For me, an interesting part of the process is looking at the next part of the story; the new universe that sprung up after Mandela.

“To be able to investigate that with Kwame, a writer with such tremendous vision for whom I have great respect and love, and within the artistic community of MIF, is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.”

Idris Elba Presents Mi Mandela, the 2014 album he put together with British and South African musicians, served as a starting point for the piece, and will provide the show’s soundtrack. The actor will not appear in the production.

Tree will premiere at the Upper Campfield Market Hall in Manchester, England in June (19) and July before a transfer to the Young Vic in London.

Other productions on the Manchester festival line-up include Dystopia987, a live show by grime star Skepta which will combine live performances by him and other artists, along with “a wealth of new technology and a cast inhabiting a hidden netherworld”.

The production, to be held for three nights in July in a secret location, has been described as “a waking dream that presents Skepta’s singular vision of the future: deep, dark, radical and riveting”.
Yoko Ono will help kick off the festival at a public gathering in Cathedral Gardens, where a “people’s orchestra of bells” will send a message of peace.