Mercy Madonna of Malawi, The World @ St George's West, Edinburgh
Tuesday 11 August 2009
People are dying in a Malawian world/ And I am a Malawian girl". It's not quite the joyful paean to excess and consumerism that Madonna had in mind. But then the Material Girl also probably never imagined that one day she'd be played on stage by a 6ft tall Malawian man wearing a blonde wig, giant star-shaped sunglasses and a silky pink nightie.
Arriving at the Fringe after a tour of Malawi, Mercy Madonna of Malawi is an exuberant musical about the Queen of Pop's controversial adoption of four-year-old Mercy James earlier this year. Written by Toby Gough and performed by a Malawian troupe, the show takes a witty yet affecting look at the story, from Mercy's birth through the legal dramas and up to an imagined future in the West for the young girl.
We hear from Madge herself, Mercy's once-absent father (who announces his arrival back on the scene with a bold "I'm the Daddy" singalong chorus), journalists, campaigners and, in a particularly boisterous court-room, the judge. Though it avoids reaching any firm conclusions as to the ethics of a wealthy Western woman coming to a poor African country in search of a baby, the production doesn't pull its punches, with one striking scene having Madonna pitch up to the orphanage, shopping trolley in tow, to be greeted by a host of nappy-clad babies all wearing "Adopt Me" T-shirts.
John Kielty's easy score mixes Madonna's strongest hits with Malawian rhythms and the traditional lyricism of musical theatre, which the multi-talented cast performs with verve and charm. There's some thrilling dancing, too. An enjoyable and eye-opening hour.
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