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Cheap politicking chokes theatre

Godwin Muzari

The recent developments surrounding the staging ( and lack of it) of a play titled No Voice, No Choice in some parts of the country seem to suggest that theatre lovers outside Harare will for a long time be deprived of excellent productions.
It seems any production that some authorities outside Harare deem unpalatable, on behalf of theatre-hungry fans, will never be staged outside the capital.

About two weeks ago, some authorities in Masvingo tried to block No Voice, No Choice from being shown and they gave vague arguments until a court order gave the play the green light.

Last weekend, the play could not go on at Chimanimani Arts Festival because the powers that be in that town felt it was not proper to have the play at the festival.

Unfortunately, most of these people standing in the way hardly know the finer details of the production — they feed on unbalanced information from their sources.

In the current political environment, No Voice, No Choice should be one of the plays that many audiences in the country should embrace to have an insight into some of the important issues controlling our social interactions.

But, because some people feel more powerful than their positions of authority and believe they can make choices for everyone, audiences are denied access to such educative productions.

Theatre practitioners have always complained about how difficult it is to take an informative play to stages outside Harare. There is serious resistance because some people are refusing to accept change.

Some years ago, it was generally a taboo to stage any play that had political connotations and that is why plays like Super Patriots and Morons were slashed off the stage. But with the coming of winds of change, it is now widely accepted that theatre lovers should consume productions without stringent boundaries.

When a play titled The Coup was staged at Theatre in the Park early this year, some people among the audiences were very uncomfortable because of its direct political messages that would have been suicidal a few years ago.

But the play safely completed its run, so did other productions, including No Voice, No Choice, Rituals and Waiting for the Constitution at the same venue.
It was a different tale for the productions when they went outside Harare. The Rituals team had a tough time when they were arrested at Cashel Valley in Manicaland and were detained in Mutare. The same team suffered a similar fate in Centenary, Bindura as well as Bulawayo.

It has, therefore, become clear that theatre lovers outside Harare will hardly enjoy good productions because restrictions still exist where they were supposed to have been broken a long time ago.

Tafadzwa Muzondo, who produced No Voice, No Choice, is a bitter man because, after successfully staging his play at Theatre in the Park, he did not think someone out there would deem it unfit for the stage.

The play did well at a festival in Zambia and international theatre lovers commended it for its reflective approach. But fellow Zimbabweans in some parts of the country will only know about the play because of its clash with authorities. They will never get to see it in order to appreciate creativity and talent that we have in theatre.

Unless there is a collective decision to award theatre lovers across the country a chance to view plays they choose and love, best theatre productions will always be confined to Harare.

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