Theatre Review: FELA! at Sadler’s Wells

Award-winning musical celebrates Afrobeat creator and political activist Fela Kuti

This show, based on the extraordinary life of a revolutionary African musician, has captivated audiences worldwide and lived up to every expectation.

Fela Kuti, an infamous political activist from Nigeria whose journey took in London and the rise of Black Power, created Afrobeat which is a joyful infusion of jazz and junk. The music became a powerful tool to fight injustices from an oppressive regime in his homeland.

The award-winning production is a visual feast of colour, music, dancing and theatre. One of the hardest parts was often deciding where to look with so much happening on stage.

One unforgettable scene featured dancers, one after the other, circling and throwing themselves towards a drummer before a blistering climax. The rendition of Zombie, the title song of the hit 1977 album and a metaphor for military tactics, is equally good.

Sahr Ngaujah, playing Fela Kuti, displays the passion and humility needed to capture this inspiring but flawed leader.

And yet FELA! finds time to be light hearted with Sahr interacting regularly and asking everyone “To leave their shy at home.” You’ll end up thinking about clocks in a completely different way.

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Maybe the politics are not covered in enough depth, particularly his quest to become president - but everyone was having too much fun.

* Showing at Sadler’s Wells in Rosebery Avenue, EC1, until Sunday, August 28.