By Sam Banda Jnr:
Realising the power of art in disseminating important messages to the masses, popular drama group Kwathu decided to come out with Dziko, a play they premiered over the weekend with the last performance at Blantyre Cultural Centre (BCC) on Easter Monday.
With the country awash with political issues ahead of the May 21 2019 elections, Kwathu’s director, Eric Mabedi, decided to stitch Dziko to remind people of the journey the country has travelled to where it is today.
The play was premiered in Phalombe on Easter Saturday before taking it to Lilongwe on Easter sunday and then Easter Monday at BCC, the group’s home.
The performance at BCC attracted an impressive audience and came barely a month after Kwathu held a thanksgiving show, staging Achithekere written by veteran actor Charles Mphoka to thank people for their support during Mabedi’s illness.
With most of Kwathu’s plays written by Mphoka and Mabedi, the sequence has been the same where it starts with the intro outlining issues being articulated, with the conclusion and recommendations coming at the end.
The group has won the hearts of many people with its style in that their plays mainly relate to day to day life in the society.
Missing the services of veteran actors such as Bon Kalindo popularly known as Winiko, who is currently engaged in campaign ahead of the elections and Evans Mbewe, who has been ill, the play features actors such as Emma Chikwembeya, Mabedi, Linda Chatha, Enifa Chiwaya, Mussa Penoh, Moses Mandebvu, Mphoka and Ferguson Magona.
The play also features new faces such as Hudson Mpunga.
The play focuses on Mabvuto (Moses Mandebvu), who is working at a transport company belonging to his father in-law, Mr. Nantibule played by Mabedi with his wife (Chatha) whilst their daughter is Maureen (Emma Chikwembeya).
Mabvuto as an employee, enjoys all the benefits such as company car and a house which is located within the compound where Maureen’s parents live as well.
But Mabvuto soon finds himself in prison after being sent on an errand outside the country by his father in-law, who happens to be his boss at work, after being found with Indian hemp.
In prison, he finds two other prisoners and they find time to talk about the country’s situation. They end up discussing the strengths and weakness of the country’s former presidents.
In their discussions, they dissect challenges that the country is going through, highlighting that the country is still poor after 54 years and that leaders have done nothing to move it forward.
The climax however, is too long and drags before coming to the end. It is a scene which has a lot more issues which are relevant, but it needs to be shortened without compromising the messages.
The play also leaves people in suspense without telling them what happened with Mabvuto’s family and relatives later, although suspense is what shows a play’s strength.
Some quarters, while hailing Kwathu for coming up with the play at the right time, felt it is similar to some of the productions they have already done.
“The issues are relevant looking at what the country is going through.
Art has the power to give a voice to the voiceless. But they could have done better to shape the play because I remember to have watchede a similar production if I am not mistaken,” a theatre lover Kondwani Tembo said.
Tembo also said having sat at the back, he struggled to follow the play due to low voices since there was no use of microphones and also noise from other people.
“I think the group needs to put strict rules on this, theatre needs attention. There are some people, who do not follow these rules and make a lot of noise. I know the group has a style where actors connect with people within scenes but noise needs to be minimised,” he said.
Mabedi, who recently came out to say their door was open for people to contribute plays, welcomed views from people.
“As Kwathu, we are always open to criticism. We are where we are today because of the people. When they come to watch, let them criticise us because we are not perfect, we improve with their criticism,” he said.
Mabedi said they will work on some of the challenges pointed out.
“As we indicated, the play has part two but that will be after the elections. As Kwathu, we are contributing to democracy using art. We are also planning to restage Dziko next month and we will also take it to other areas,” Mabedi, popularly known as Jakobo said.
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