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6 theatre outfits team up in Francophone project

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Having worked intensively for close to a month, six theatre groups from Blantyre namely YDC, Young Travellers, Scar of Life, Umunthu, Solomonic and Dikamawoko are now ready to serve two adapted French productions – Chaos and The Chairs.

Described by curator of Theatre in Mandala Tawonga Nkhonjera as the first of its kind, the two productions are part of Francophone Theatre project which saw the six theatre groups adapting two plays by Francophone writers.

The two plays are Le Dieu Du Carnage (Chaos) by Yasmina Reza and Les Chaises (The Chairs) by Eugene Lonesco.

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Nkhonjera is leading the project with assistance from playwright Fumbani Phiri, with the cast made up of Zione Chisale, Flower Joy, Praise Chigwe, Jack Musumba, Lydia Banda and Grace Chanika.

The plays will be staged on Saturday at Theatre in Mandala at Jacaranda Cultural Centre in Blantyre in a double feature.

Nkhonjera said the two plays have challenged the production cast and crew.

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“We are coming up with two very disparate plays, one rooted in realism theatre and the other which is the very example of theatre of the absurd. We have worked with young massively talented and intelligent actors,” he said.

He said Chaos is an idea-based play and requires a certain level of intelligence to embody the essence of the play and present it in a stage performance to Malawian audiences.

“On the other hand, The Chairs is absurd theatre which requires a very varied style of acting and presentation on stage. Mostly, in Malawi, absurd theatre is almost synonymous with Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot,” Nkhonjera said.

He said they were hoping that Lonesco’s work will help put the spotlight on absurd theatre and the presentation form that it requires.

“Our actors have been stretched and they have been prepared well. We believe they have developed through the course of the project and are primed to give people captivating performances,” he said.

Nkhonjera further said that The Chairs is a look at life from the perspective of an elderly couple in their 90s whereas Chaos is a psychological play that engages two families that come together to discuss an incident involving their respective children, where one hurts the other with a stick.

“The Francophone project has been made possible with the support of the French Embassy in South Africa. It is a symbiotic project which enables the French Embassy to promote French art and culture across the world, simultaneously, it provides Malawian theatre practitioners with a chance to delve into new processes, expressions and performance styles,” the Dikamawoko director said.

Nkhonjera said, in Malawi, we have our own distinctions of theatre.

“By engaging young actors from different troupes, we believe that we will help them to absorb global ideas and express them locally, that they will learn new styles of acting so that, when they return to their parent theatre ensembles, they will be able to share the new knowledge,” he said.

Nkhonjera described the project as a great landmark in the relatively young journey of Theatre in Mandala.

“We want to develop theatre in Malawi to the highest level, and we will engage different initiatives to realise this. The Francophone theatre project has opened up doors for international collaborations and networks.

“We are grateful to the French Ambassador in South Africa, to director of Jacaranda Cultural Centre and Maison dela France Luc Deschamps and all directors of ensembles for their participation,” he said.

Ahead of the performances on Saturday, the plays were staged at Zomba Catholic and St Patricks’ recently.

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