Saturday, April 22, 2023



Winston Ruddle - Founder/Producer/ Director/Performer and Papa Africa

Produced and Directed by Winston Ruddle,

Canberra Theatre 18th April 2023.

Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

The brainchild of Zimbabwean born German Citizen, Winston Ruddle, also known as Papa Africa, “Cirque Mother Africa” is unique in that it is the showcase for the graduates of the Dar Es Salaam Institution in Magomeni, a poor neighbourhood of Tanzania’s business capital.

Known as Hakuna Matata (‘no worries’ in Swahili) the circus school attracts young hopefuls from all over Africa. However, only the most accomplished find their way into one of Ruddle’s productions of “Cirque Mother Africa” which constantly tour the world demonstrating the colour and richness of African culture through highly sophisticated presentations highlighting the extraordinary circus skills of their all-African casts.

Baraka Ferouz (Unicycle) - Martin Kibosha (drums)

Many of the acts are circus staples, but unicyclist,  Baraka Ferouz, still managed to amaze with his juggling skills while balancing on a ridiculously high unicycle, or compressing his whole body onto an impossibly tiny two-wheeler.

Kahindi Iha and Franco Baya

Kenyan father and son act, Icarian, ( Kahindi Iha and Frano Baya) stunned with their dangerous-looking foot-juggling act in which the younger was tossed into the air by his father while the audience count aloud the number of consecutive revolutions the pair would achieve. The ambition was 20, but 25 was achieved at this performance.

Pengo amazed with his skills on the wobbly Rola Rolas. Another, Yusuphu Fuku, performed risky balances atop of a towering stack of chairs surrounded by a troupe of muscular Maasai warriors.

A feature of all the solo acts was the stylish presentation lavished on each. Sometimes it was colourfully costumed singers and dancers who performed energetic versions of traditional African songs.  For others, drummers filled the auditorium with driving rhythms. Beautiful South African singer, Pretty, not only lived up to her name, but complimented other performers with unique vocalisations of traditional African melodies. The stage was never left unoccupied in this fast-moving show.

The Ramadhani Brothers -Ibrahim and Fadhili 

Particularly memorable in the current troupe are the Ramadhari Brothers, Ibrahim and Fadhili, who many recognised from their 2022 appearances on the television series “Australia’s Got Talent”. They take head balancing to whole new levels.

Handsome young contortionist, Geofrey Mogela, drew audible gasps from the audience with his remarkable, some might say disturbing, flexibility.

Contortionist: Geofrey Mogela

Then there was the moment when the audience felt it could hardly draw breath when the tension mounted as another mesmerising performer named Benard Lungwa, added bone-like components to an extraordinarily fragile structure he was constructing. Following well-earned applause on completion of his task, Ben surprised everyone by collapsing his handiwork when he removed just one tiny feather-like component.

It wasn’t all gasps of wonderment though. There were plenty of giggles too whenever Papa Africa (Winston Ruddle himself) took the stage to captivate the audience with his easy charm and banter.

This relaxed charm was evident throughout the whole troupe, who had obviously learned their stagecraft well from the master. There was a distinct sense of pride permeating the whole ensemble in which members who were not involved in a particular act, cheerfully acted as stage- hands, quickly and efficiently clearing props and set pieces, and thereby enhancing the impressive skill and professionalism being displayed by their colleagues.

“Cirque Mother Africa” is currently undertaking an ambitious tour of regional Australia. Watch out for it when it comes your way.  


                                                              Images supplied

    This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www,