This year’s National Institute of Allied Arts (NIAA) Speech and Drama Festival drew an impressive 1 719 entries from 40 junior and 21 senior schools and an additional 10 studios. Kicking off to a great start in the Midlands on June 27, school children from Gweru, Bulawayo, Kwekwe and Masvingo participated at the host school, Midlands Christian College.
By Rosie Mitchell
A very high standard was observed by the adjudicators. There were entries in the Midlands across the genres, from solo and duo poetry and prose recitals to choral speaking, mime, news reading, monologues, duologues and more.
On July 1, the festival opened in Harare with the Dance category, adjudicated by well-known Zimbabwean dancers, dance instructors and choreographers — Debbie Fleming, Soukania Marie-Laure Edom and Yeukai Zinyoro Chandiposa.
Dance adjudications took place at the National Ballet Centre and drew 51 interesting and varied entries across the spectrum of dance genres — traditional, mixed genre, hip hop, contemporary and jazz, with a range of solo, duo and group performances.
On July 4, the festival moved to Prince Edward School, where solo and duo poetry and prose recitals, news readings, monologues, duologues, prepared speeches, mime, recitals from Shakespeare’s works, including sonnets and performed playlets and more were adjudicated through to July 12.
On July 10, solo, duo and group dramatic improvisation, including improvised advertising, took place at Prince Edward School. Choral speaking took place from July 12 to 15 at the International School (HIS), where the well-attended final concert was held, presenting a selection of excellent and award-winning entries.
The standard was very high at this year’s Speech and Drama Festival and both participants and audiences enjoyed themselves. Next up from NIAA are the visual Arts and Literary Festivals, scheduled for September 24 to 30. Closing date for visual arts entries is August 5, while the literary arts entry date has already passed.
This year’s acclaimed-international adjudicators, both of whom grew up in Zimbabwe, were Erica Schofield from South Africa who was last here to adjudicate in 2013 and theatre academic and practitioner Michael Pearce from the UK, who last came in 2008. Schofield studied drama in London, then Biochemistry at the University of Cape Town. She has worked as production assistant and casting director on films in Cape Town. Schofield also consults for OpenNetworks, a Google for Work Partner and has written and produced three comedies for theatre, travelling globally to various festivals, including Edinburgh Festival Fringe. She was the national chairperson of the Performing Arts Network of South Africa for several years and co-wrote and performed in the short film Thread, which won 11 awards at the 48hourfilm Festival. She currently co-directs the South African Eco Film Festival.
Pearce studied at Rhodes University, trained at the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris and has worked as an actor, deviser, director and facilitator in southern Africa, Europe and the UK, completing his PhD at the University of Exeter where he now lectures. His current research examines black British theatre in relation to the cultural and political spaces of Africa, the Caribbean and the USA and his book Black British Theatre: A Transnational Story comes out this year. He recently completed a BBC documentary series about the history of black performance on British stage and screen presented by Lenny Henry.
l To see photos and video clips of the festival, and find out more, join the NIAA Facebook Group and visit their website.