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YDC, Dikamawoko to stage adapted play

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It takes guts, commitment and insurmountable faith to stage a play in the midst of a pandemic, namely Covid-19, that has depleted financial resources and turned creative ideas redundant, especially because there is no guarantee that creatives will get their investments back. Not until the mist of Covid-19 clears up.

However, Blantyrebased groups YDC Theatre and Dikamawoko Arts have done just that. Combining their guts, commitment and insurmountable faith in theatre, the groups have put the old adage that “there is strength in numbers” to good use after teaming up to bring Ever Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues to Malawian audiences.

And where else to stage a play— that distracts people from today’s painful realities to introduce them to temporary hope found in creative works— than in the capital of a country?

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The two groups are, therefore, staging the play at Golden Peacock Hotel in Lilongwe tonight. Directed by Dikamawoko Director Tawonga Taddja Nkhonjera and YDC Theatre’s playwright Fumbani Phiri, the play serves as the theatre industry’s contribution to the fight against genderbased violence.

It comes at a time Malawians have joined the rest of the world in commemorating 16 days of activism against GBV. Nkhonjera described the play as experimental theatre where they adapt different scenes from an original play to address issues that have been going on in the country.

“YDC Theatre is one of the most active and groundbreaking theatre ensembles in Malawi and this is why we have teamed up with them in this production. Dikamawoko Arts is quite honoured to work with young, talented individuals. This is a confluence that brings together raw talent and experience in theatre to give a perfectly blended production,” he said.

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Last year, YDC Theatre and Dikamawoko Arts also collaborated to stage a play titled She Has A Name, in observation of 16 days of activism against GBV.

“As for this year, as we plan to close the campaign we call 16 days of activism, we wanted to have a production that would address issues such as rising cases of rape and sexual abuse.

“We are fortunate enough to be given staging rights to the script of The Vagina Monologues, which Eve Ensler wrote. This is powerful because Ensler herself was a victim of rape and physical abuse, in this case at the hands of her father,” he said.

He said it was sad that Malawi was in the news for all the wrong reasons. He cited the proliferation of news bordering on defilement or rape in newspapers, radio and television stations, as well as online media platforms. “Men are raping their own daughters. In consideration of what can be done, one thing that is evident is that we need to foster discourse, open talk and direct interventions to address the issue of rape and sexual abuse.

“As such, we decided that, apart from conducting film screenings, public service announcements and such, we will stage a play that brings the 16 days of activism to a close,” Nkhonjera said.

However, it is not the first time for Malawian creatives to stage the play. Zilanie Gondwe once staged the same production.

To this, Nkhonjera said: “There is a difference between us and them [those who staged the play before]. The difference is that we want to address contemporary issues. We are not staging the play as it was done in the United States or as it was done in Chitenje Changa. The issue of rape has to be faced head-on. As such, we need to work together and, in the play, we are trying to offer solutions to this problem. This pandemic of rape is at all levels. We are adapting this play to our Malawian setting,” Nkhonjera said.

Meanwhile, Nkhonjera has indicated that the Censorship Board approached them to change the title. He, however, said they would stick to the title and that there would be no changes. Some of the actors starring in the play are Deborah Butao, Florence Magombo, Ellastica Msiska, Dalitso Ndana Chazuka and Yankho Kumwenda. The play comes barely two weeks after YDC Theatre premiered the play The Wall.

The play is being staged at a time First Lady Monica Chakwera and Gender Minister Patricia Kaliati have bemoaned rising cases of rape in the country.

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