Don’t kill us yet, bury us, these are the bold words from no-one else but newly formed Blantyre-based theatre group Descendants Ensemble Theatre.
A lot has been said about theatre in the country losing its grip, with many people saying it is slowly dying and that a few drama groups have managed to keep themselves alive.
This has been compounded by the fact that there are only a few drama groups which are holding stage plays but many downed their tools long time ago.
Unlike drama in English where there is still a good number of groups but drama in Chichewa is completely out of the picture with only Kwathu Drama Group standing out.
Drama was a force to reckon with in the past years where there were lots of groups both in English and Chichewa and it was one of the fields that used to attract huge audiences.
But today with the coming of technology things have completely changed, drama groups no longer pull massive audiences.
And with the economic challenges, drama groups cannot afford to hold performances as was the case in the past years.
Some people have argued that apart from the economic challenges, drama groups have lost the plot in that their plays are substandard and that there was need to invest in playwrights just like we had geniuses in the past in the likes of Du Chisiza Jnr.
But all that said, Descendants Ensemble Theatre says it is here to stay as well as prove that drama is still alive and not dead.
Formed by well known faces, who have starred with different groups in the past years, Descendants Ensemble Theatre will on Monday descend at Blantyre Cultural Centre to unveil themselves to the people but also premiere From the Freedom Square.
The group has been rehearsing for some time and now they are ready to go on stage and show what they are made of.
Descendants has been formed by among others renowned actress Flora Suya, who has in the past starred with groups such as Nanzikambe, Ben Msuku and Gift Namachekecha, who used to perform with the now invisible Wanna Do Ensemble Theatre created by late theatre darling Gertrude Webster Kamkwatira.
“We have been in the industry for long and we have what it takes to entertain and educate people through drama. On top of that we would want to join the other groups which are already doing the work on the ground to say drama is not dead,” said Msuku.
Msuku, the creator of From the Freedom Square said they have assessed the industry and that despite the economic challenges on the ground which have grounded several groups, they are here to expand the industry.
“We are more than ready to give people great productions, we know we have a huge task but we are prepared. All we are saying is people should welcome us and support us and at the same time the corporate world should come over and help them,” said Suya, who has featured in award winning movies such as The Last Fishing Boat and Seasons of a Life.
Suya said she will still be available to work on projects with other groups but was now attached to Descendants.
Msuku and Namachekecha, who have in the past years been part of Wanna Do, also committed themselves to Descendants.
“As a group we also want to give a platform to new talent, it will not be about Flora Suya, Gift Namachekecha and Ben Msuku as well as other well known actors but people will see new faces. Actually in the play there are actors who have never been on stage,” said Namachekecha.
Msuku admitted that he has missed the stage alongside his fellow founders and that they have been challenged by several people to come out.
“We are here to prove that drama is still there and our aim is to come up with quality productions and all we are saying is that people should come and see our first production on Monday and they will not regret,” said Msuku.
Suya said the group has no funders at the moment and that they have dug deeper from their pockets just to show their seriousness.
“We have funded ourselves but we are also thankful to Gift Namachekecha’s father, who has helped us in other areas such as advertising which is expensive these days. Gift’s father has always loved drama and so he has sponsored us and he will even be paying some people from his constituency to come and watch the production,” she said.
Suya observed that many companies are reluctant to support drama groups when they knock on their doors.
“Many ask for what they are going to benefit but art has proved that it is key to development. All we want is for companies to trust the creative industry by working with them and in turn their brands will be promoted,” she said.
On the play, Msuku said it has a cast of seven with four actresses and three actors.
“From the Freedom Square, is a typical family drama and it is pretty much to do with three families, one family lost a bread winner, the other is in separation and the story actually develops when a nephew pays them a visit,” explained the veteran actor, who also starred in Seasons of a Life.
He described the piece as drama and that through the play he is just trying to show his art as well as expressing himself.
“I don’t want to pre-empt what is in the production, let people come and watch and at the end of it all they will interpret it on their own,” he said.
The group maintained that they were not a one-off theatre group that will only stage one production and then disappear but rather they want to bring more productions on the ground.
“We are ready and positive and with funds permitting we will be taking our productions to other places as was the case in the past years where drama groups used to perform in various places and not only in cities,” said Msuku.
It remains to be seen as to how far the group will travel in the theatrical world and whether their productions will manage to move people but for them, the journey has begun.
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