A PLAY written by renowned playwright Raisedon Baya and directed by Memory Kumbota that explores complex issues surrounding Zimbabwe’s land issue opened the 2015 theatre calendar at the Bulawayo Theatre on January 2.
HILARY M MOYO
Producers of the play, The Taking, made a brave decision to put the show on January 2 when most people have been fatigued by the festive holidays.
However, more than 100 theatre lovers turned up for the show and the presentation did not disappoint.
Baya’s skill in using words was evident in the dialogue delivered by the five-member cast of The Taking.
Weaving three stories into one fluid presentation proved that Baya and Kumbota have mastered the intricate and complicated art of play creation.
The play is presented in a crisp assured style that shows a remarkable regard for detail and ideas by both writer and director.
The main story is set in a prison cell and Baya uses the characters to take the audience out of the prison set-up into the wild as Sixpence retells his folktale to the arresting cop.
The folktale pitting albino hippos from the Atlantic and the indigenous crocodiles in a Zimbabwean river captures the philosophy behind the country’s history and war of liberation.
The war was to free the masses from the chains of colonialism and to equitably redistribute resources. The second plot is that of Sikhathele Pertunia Sontonga, who stands accused of murdering her adoptive father, a white farmer whom she thought was about to flee the country with all the wealth.
It is after committing the heinous crime that she discovers that the farmer’s will left everything for her.
The main story is that of farm invasions, which the audience could identify with. It is a story that people usually feel uncomfortable talking about for fear of being victimised.
However, The Taking is not a political satire, but an apt reflection of reality. The play defines the importance of land to humanity in a specified area.
The land is the economy, identity and inheritance. It is the basic need for everyone, hence all the talk around it.
The directing is rich with the director throwing in most, if not all theatre techniques at his disposal.
Kumbota challenges actors to fully use their bodies and voices, not only to play different characters and animals, but to also create props and define different locations that the story uses.
Actors easily transform in front of the audience’s eyes to take different forms. The technique allows the audience to watch the play as “play” and at the same time being kept in the illusion of believability.
The play could easily be identified with black theatre of the South African apartheid era when the likes of John Kani, Mbongeni Ngema, Winston Ntshona and many others used theatre to expose their disenchantment with the White system.
Small and minimal props are used to transform characters and define spaces and The Taking uses exactly the same techniques.
There is a good choice of songs for the play that cut across different cultures. They also help to define time zones as the story had many flashbacks and forwards that might have left the uninitiated confused.
But movement from different time zones and spaces is done so convincingly and so fluidly. The actors are right on cue to create different moments.
Their bodies move in unison when the need arises, their eyes see one thing and their emotions connected. Their voices are controll at all times when they burst into song.
The cast of Zenzo Nyathi, Gift Chakuvinga, Aleck Zulu, Elton Sibanda and Musa Sibanda did a good job and did not try to outdo each other. They kept themselves within the limits in a play where an overzealous actor could have run away with the show.
Nyathi easily managed his transformations playing the arresting police officer, the prosecutor and newspaper vendor.
All the characters were distinct. Gift Chakuvinga displayed good story telling techniques. He is one actor who can be stretched to any extent and will be up to the task. His narration of the folktale left the audience crying for more.
Zulu had a good rebound. Those who had written him off from stage must rethink.
He easily tied the audience around his finger and made them flow with him. Musa, the only female member of the cast, matched others in all aspects. She played the role of Sikhathele with beauty and articulation.
Elton has the talent and managed to play the interrogating policeman and white farmer so well.
The Taking is a piece to watch and has almost everything one looks for in theatre.
The play is set to rerun in February.
Hilary M Moyo is a theatre arts graduate from the University of Zimbabwe.