The setting is in a park where Dambudzo Marechera, a writer, is struggling with alcoholism and hallucinatory premonition.
BY SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
In one of the hallucinations he finds himself in fantasy land when his own creation, a female character in one of his unfinished writings, pops up and leads him into a sexual dream.
These are scenes from the play Pub Stories: Tony Fights Tonite; a Dambudzo Marechera adaptation that was first shown at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) this year featuring Nyaradzo Nhongonhema.
Nyarie, as she prefers to be called, double casts as Jane and Jill and is the girl who keeps popping up in Marechera’s mind as he writes and apparently typifies what is often regarded as the “dirty Marechera” with his often lurid expressionism.
In one striking scene, Jane appears to coerce Marechera into having sex on a recreational park bench as the latter tries to distance himself from her.
The confusion that ensues can easily be linked to all the stories about the late Marechera’s misdemeanour, that is regularly talked about.
Nyarie, through Jane, brings out the Marechera that many may have known through his literary pieces.
But she declares her character in the play is an apt departure from reality.
“I always invite my family to watch me on stage or even on the basketball court, but with this play, I made sure that no one was available,” she said with a wry smile.
“I grew up in a morally upright family where you refer to your older brother as mukoma. Everyone wakes well before 6am and does their chores, watering the garden, looking for firewood or doing the dishes. From the time I was in Grade 3, I would wake up and finish preparing my father’s morning sadza by 6am. That is how my mother brought us up.”
But how does one with such a conservative upbringing fit so well into the explicit role?
“The director of the play Monageng Motshabi aka ‘Vice’ took his time with me. At first, I did not even think I was going to pull through but it worked out,” she said.
Although the Marechera play is her biggest role so far, the actress — a university graduate with a degree in Theatre Arts and French — said she has always been comfortable being on set.
While in college, she and a friend were asked to write, rehearse and present a play in just over a day and the result was a huge success.
“I remember it was on a Wednesday evening and we were asked to come up with a play for performance on Friday. They gave us the topic and title Todini and we worked wonders. I was to act in another production for a Palestinian event titled There Is a Friend, which is arguably my most successful play,” she said.
In There Is a Friend, she acted as Nadine, while her narrations worked as the demarcation between scenes.
Earlier this year she also got a role in the Rooftop Promotions production, Farai and Chipo In Love, where she played Chipo.
Born to Claudius Zakaria and Afra Nhongonhema on March 12 1991, Nyarie is the last born in a family of three boys and three girls.
“My mother was a nurse at Bikita Minerals but we lived at what people from the area call ‘Sirivhera’ [Silveira] Mission. So I am a mere mission girl. I did my primary school at Nyagurwe before enrolling at Silveira Mission for Form 1 to 6 after which I then enrolled at the University of Zimbabwe in 2010,” she said.
“I had applied for a Bachelor of Arts degree but the college offered me theatre arts and a lot of people teased me saying I was going to be dancing muchongoyo. My late brother Godknows is the one who discouraged me from changing the programme and I have never regretted it since.”
Besides acting, Nyarie is a basketball player who has represented Zimbabwe at university level, having toured Namibia and Malawi with the team.
But there is another side of her that has overwhelmed her coy character.
“Before I went to college I met comedian Doc Vikela [real name Victor Mpofu] who encouraged me to start modelling. I fought with him all the way and said I was not going to parade myself on the ramp for anyone,” she said, admitting she had been wrong.
“I was to get into Miss Mash Central held in Bindura and was crowned the second princess. I then participated in the Miss Tourism Zimbabwe pageant and was crowned Miss Personality and Miss Top Model the same year. After that I also participated in the Miss Universities and was the second princess and was in the top seven in the Miss Carnival.”
She said for all she has managed to achieve so far, she has her family to thank for the persuasion and encouragement they gave her.
“My father is my biggest fan and the whole family has encouraged me all the way. Similarly, my friends, particularly Princess Sibanda and Lyneth Mtemeri have pushed me,” said the leggy actress.