By Ish Mafundikwa
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced people worldwide to press the “pause” button on many activities we took for granted. One of these is social events such as going to the theater to watch a play.
Vaccination rollouts, a reduction in infections, and the desire to “go back to normal; to the way it was” are seeing some of these activities return.
Theatre in the Park’s run of the play Mwana Wa from June 2 to 5 was Rooftop Promotion’s first production since late 2019.
Like most Rooftop productions, the play, produced and directed by veteran producer/actor Daves Guzha, looks at contemporary social, economic, and political issues facing Zimbabwe.
It shines a light on the very topical issue of minerals, gold, in particular, focusing on the wild world of artisanal miners, the so-called makorokoza.
The digital flyer announcing the play had the rider, “All Covid-19 protocols observed.” Still, a sizable audience braved the cold to experience what was, for some, their first evening out in months.
The play pits Guzha as Brown and Tafadzwa Hananda as his sidekick Bruce against Stewart Sakarombe as Barca with Taurai Kawara as Moira somewhere in between.
As Nomalanga, a businesswoman, Eunice Tava is the voice of reason who questions Brown’s sense of entitlement and asks for tangible evidence of the benefits of the gold to the country despite his claims that it is a gift to the people from the ancestral spirits.
As the operator of a store where the makorokozas spend their hard-earned money on liquor, she was no slouch when it came to standing up to the machinations of the men.
She spurned Brown’s rather explicit sexual advances and even went toe to toe with him and his sidekick. She, however, displays her human side by having a soft spot for Barca.
The play ticked all the boxes about what we hear about the world of makorokoza; the toil they put in, the violence — some of the protagonists pranced around the set with makeshift machetes, even a toy gun popped up — and the negligible returns for those who risk their lives going into dangerous mines.
One of the standout moments in the play is when Brown responds to Barca’s threat that he wanted Brown’s head on a Biblical plate by describing the Bible as “a compilation of literal works by creatives who lived long before gold was discovered”.
A pleasant surprise for theatergoers is that, for the first time, Theatre in the Park had a proper set.
A mine hole into which the makorokoza disappeared, other mining paraphernalia, and Noma’s store, complete with the obligatory pool table where tipsy makorokoza bet and lost their hard-earned cash.
“Since the inception of Theatre in the Park in the 1990s, we left it to the audience to imagine the physical spaces on the stage. For instance, that there was a door when there was none,” said Guzha.
Marvin Mabikwa did a sterling job designing the set.
Mwana Wa written by Special Matarirano is satire at its best, and its short run was a resounding success.
It will, according to Guzha, go on the road in August.
The challenge might be reproducing that set when it does.
Theatre in the Park will, pandemic permitting, resume regular performances in July.