By Trevor Makonyonga
When life continues to be an endless struggle, most Africans tends to get spiritual with some consulting the spirit mediums, white garment prophets, neo-pentecostal prophets and other such supernatural offices. What of a scenario where the spirits wish to consult on the living?
This is what the play, Liberation, tries to do. The proverbial statement that the dead might be turning in their graves is challenged when the dead in the drama instead of turning in their graves actually hold meetings to try and help the living. The linking of the dead heroes’ spirits in the opening scene with their transition to the land of the living provides an interesting entry to the story. The most interesting thing in this play is that the same actors play multi roles which makes the story fluid.
The play which was part of this year’s Mitambo International Theatre Festival, almost starts with the tragedy that has befallen the people of Zimbabwe who wish to peacefully protest; the uniformed forces. During the time the play was written, the police were in the perpetual habit of throwing teargases to protestors. In the current state, it is now the military who are using force to disperse protestors. This is brought about when the young leader named Tonde, played by Francis Nyakuhwa, takes to the street to protest against the abduction of their leader. This action by the youths then leads to where the main theme of the play is centred around; the liberating politicians.
The play provides a sharp contrast between the meaning of the word liberation in precolonial Zimbabwe and the present day. Set in modern Zimbabwe, this drama questions social political paradigms as set by politicians. The ruling class is represented by Comrade Mao played by Daniel Maphosa. Mao seems so powerful that whatever he says goes. He is a serial womaniser offering jobs and money for sex. This scenario in the play is synonymous with what happens in real life behind closed doors. He takes everything he wants and noone dares him. He is the one who brought in Tonde into politics hence he feels betrayed by the youngman’s opposition of the system which he represents.
He is being pressured by his party leader to silence Tonde failure of which he would lose his priviledges. To silence Tonde, Comrade Mao will use all methods within his power. He will use his mistress (played Rumbidzai Karize) journalist from the national broadcaster, he will also plant a mole (Nyarie Nhonginhema) within the young leader’s circle who ends up having an affair with and blackmail war veteran uncle of the menacing young protest organiser by threatening to take his farm.
The contrast is provided by the discussion which Tonde has with his uncle, Nyandoro. Nyandoro (Charles Matare) brings out liberation as the process of getting independence whereas his nephew envisions a time where less people will suffer and when opportunities will be equal for all. The fight for liberation in the modern setup is questioned by the character of Regis played by Dereck Nyizakwi who feels that Tonde is soft for the struggle at hand. He reckons a more violent approach is what is needed to bring equality and liberation to the people. It is Tonde’s belief that the regime should fight with actual guns and him fighting back with the people as his guns.
This was almost prophetic to what is happening now in the actual political scene where most people think that the opposition is too calm for the fight at hand. It could be that political scene in Zimbabwe is recurrent too that is why this play is so relevant.
It seems the wish of the storytellers, writer Leonard Matsa and director Bongani Masango, to try and deduce the happenings in the Zimbabwean political landscape. The play did justice in this regard. The cast were had a level of understanding which made the play seem flawless although there were some instances where actors mumbled through their lines. Because the play depicts the day to day life in the country, the cast felt at ease. Props were used magnificently and transitions from scene to scene was done superbly.
The play ends with everyone within Cde Mao’s circle going against his orders and uniting with the liberation course at hand. Nyandoro agrees with Tonde that he had to stand with the people. The journalist gives coverage to Tonde against the wish of Mai and the spy does protest with her peers. At the end of it all, the spirits of the dead heroes are not amused. The play is a good watch and can still be accessed on the Mitambo international theatre festival’s Facebook page.
Out of 10, the play would rate as a 7 given that it was being watched virtually.