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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

What to Expect from No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – The Musical

Another adaptation of the popular No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith is in the works – a musical!

The Handsome Man’s Deluxe CaféThe Woman Who Walked in SunshineHilary Prendini Toffoli has written an article for Mail and Guardian in which she shares what you can expect from this production, which will be brought to life by South African theatrical guru Nicholas Ellenbogen, who has teamed up with Afro-fusion band Freshlyground’s prodigy Josh Hawks.

“It’s 10 years since Ellenbogen and McCall Smith first started working on a musical version of the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Ellenbogen says he wanted to stage it as soon as he had finished reading the first book,” Toffoli writes. The musical will be staged at The Grill Room in The Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town from October to December before it heads to Johannesburg “and, possibly, the world”.

The two latest books in this beloved series are The Handsome Man’s Deluxe Café (2014) and The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine (due at the end of the month).

Read the article to find out who will star as the enigmatic and innovative Mma Ramotswe, the heroine of McCall Smith’s series set in Botswana:

The show is being put together by a great team which includes Josh Hawks, wonderkid of South Africa’s internationally acclaimed Afro-fusion band Freshlyground. This prodigy has come to the party with 12 tunes. African dance songs. Reggae. Maskandi. Ballads. Pioneer-style jazz. Already, that gives the musical a rocking lift-off.

The tricky bit is going to be conveying the uniquely buoyant spirit not only of Botswana, where the stories are set, but also of the enormously engaging and now world-famous heroine, Precious Ramotswe. An intriguing combination of strength and sweetness, who always retains a sense a humour and never allows herself to succumb to despair no matter how sad the circumstances, this lady manages to land up in some outlandish stretches of cultural turf. Crimes she handles include some very quirky very African felonies.

In a recent article for The Mary Sue on female true detectives, Zack Budryk included Precious Ramotswe in his list of “6 Female True Detectives You Oughtta Know”. Also on the list is heroines by internationally acclaimed crime novelists Lauren Beukes and Tana French.

Read what Budryk had to say of Botswana’s No 1 lady detective:

Precious, the aptly-named heroine of Alexander McCall’s book series and the Jill Scott-starring HBO series based on it, is even less like a typical TV cop than Molly. A “traditionally-built” private eye based in a rapidly industrializing post-colonial Botswana, Mma Ramotswe’s cases are almost always small-scale, local, and non-violent—a far cry from the bloody, vaguely supernatural milieu of True Detective and Fargo. Despite this, her empathy and warmth on top of her deductive skills make her on the most genuinely nice characters in modern literature.

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