Kalakuta Republik

Kalakuta Republik will stay with you, for good or bad. Named after the commune founded in the 1970s in Lagos by Nigerian Fela Kuta, founder of Afrobeat, a legend to rival to Bob Marley, politically radical, (influenced by Black Power), who challenged the corruption of the Nigerian military junta and fought for freedom of expression (not militantly) but through his music. This is not a celebration of his life, but more an evocation of the deeply depressing effects of a life of poverty and oppression; a broken people embodied in broken dance. The choreographer, Serge Aimé Coulibaly has been influenced by Pina Bausch, Alain Patel and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, a role call which makes one realises this confusing, unstructured dance is intentional. It is both personal and political.

An evocation of the deeply depressing effects of a life of poverty and oppression; a broken people embodied in broken dance.

Fragments of documentary film play throughout on a screen at the back. Clouds of smoke probably the Kalakuta commune which was set on fire and destroyed by the military, then crowds of people running for their lives. Slogans on the screen also divide the show, part one being ‘Without A Story We Will Go Mad’.

Taking place in what appears to be a seedy nightclub, what is remarkable is that the seven dancers all perform in a vacuum. There is no interacton, even if some of the moves are echoed by another dancer later. At times the knees jerked up, shaking shoulders, enigmatic gestures are so repetitive, the dance is in danger of sending the audience to sleep.

However, what makes the show is the music. The first half is one piece an hour long (Kuta was famed for his long sessions). Its Afrobeat is a mixture of jazz, High Life, blues, funk (which he claimed James Brown stole from him) and traditional Yoruba polyrhythms. It is the beat which gets under your skin in its cool, smoky way and once caught, you cannot get enough of it. Occasionally a trumpet line snakes out, evidence of Kuta’s love of Miles Davies.

The second secton of the first act, has a change of mood with snatches of melody but its beauty is undercut by the scene where a man embraces a woman then half strangles her before flinging her away. Kuta was notoriously sexist and a polygamist.

Act Two also takes place in the nightclub but is more focused on various characters. The slogan is ‘You Always Need A Poet’. The poet has to be Kuta, of course, but various characters take the spotlight, notably a man in a tight yellow sheathe-like dress, and another in pink suit and hat who blows smoke in his face and derisively up his dress. A girl in flowery black and red dress gyrates in an increasingtly erotic manner, and eventually sits astride a man lolling on the sofa and appears to be f*ing him. Kuta after his return from America renamed his nightclub ‘The Shrine’ and increasingly behaved like a high priest, using face painting and rituals like pouring libations. This is demonstrated by white painted faces and powder poured in a circle on the stage which the dancers roll in. This second act makes no pretence to glorify his life-style or his egomaniac delusions. Some of this is suggested in Act Two but the show does not pretend to be an autobiography. To find out more of his scandalous life - the drugs, the sex, the polygamy, death by AIDS - you will have Google it for yourself.

The show ends on a strong note: three pairs, one carried on the shoulders of the other, enter the auditorium, their hands signalling a pattern of semi-enigmatic, semi-comprehensible signs to suggest that the fight for justice in Nigeria, and by extension the whole of Africa, will go on.

Reviews by Stephanie Green

Festival Theatre

The Scandal at Mayerling

Festival Theatre

NDT2: The Big Crying, Simple Things, Impasse

Edinburgh Festival Theatre / Milton Keynes Theatre / New Theatre Cardiff

The Great Gatsby



Royal Lyceum Theatre

Christmas Dinner


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

Kalakuta Republic was the name that legendary Afrobeat pioneer and radical political activist Fela Kuti gave to his communal compound in the suburbs of Lagos, even declaring it independent from Nigeria in 1970. It burnt to the ground in 1977 following an assault by 1000 armed soldiers. Arrested more than 200 times throughout his life, Kuti was a merciless scourge of corruption, repression and inequality.

Pioneering dancer and choreographer Serge Aimé Coulibaly takes Kuti’s life and beliefs as inspiration for this visually stunning, hypnotic dance work for seven performers that draws lines from African revolution in the 1970s to today’s political resistance. In Coulibaly’s dynamic, demanding choreography, dance becomes a symbol of transformation, a ceaseless march towards ultimate freedom. Kalakuta Republik is a carnival of insurrection. 

Download the programme here

Serge Aimé Coulibaly Choreographer
Sara Vanderieck Dramaturg
Catherine Cosme Set & Costume Designer
Hermann Coulibaly Lighting Designer
Ève Martin Video
Sam Serruys Sound
Sayouba Sigué Artistic Assistant

Creation and interpretation Marion Alzieu, Serge Aimé Coulibaly, Jean-Robert Koudogbo Kiki, Adonis Nebié, Sayouba Sigué, Ahmed Soura, Ida Faho, Antonia Naouele 

More information about some of the artists:

Faso Danse Theatre
Website | Facebook | Instagram 

Serge Aimé Coulibaly
Instagram | Youtube

Most Popular See More

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Grease the Musical

From £20.00

More Info

Find Tickets


From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Book of Mormon

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets