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‘We need theatre audience back’

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Actor Thokozani Kapiri has said the theatre industry needs to reclaim its audience and that this can only be done if theatre performances brought quality productions.

Kapiri alongside Mbene Mbunga Mwambene on Saturday staged a play titled ‘The Island’ at Madsoc Theatre in Lilongwe.

“The turnout was good, 75 percent full but we had a good number of whites with very few Malawians. This is why as Migrant Arts we want to change all this, we want to turn this around. We need the Malawian audience back into theatre,” Kapiri said.

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Theatre has suffered a setback of late in terms of audience and has seen poetry overtaking it in terms of numbers.

Today, poetry attracts huge audiences compared to theatre which has raised eyebrows among theatre practitioners.

Kapiri said it was nice for Migrant Arts to be back on stage in Malawi.

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“We had a great time performing ‘The Island’. At least here people were able to understand Chichewa lines. Despite the humour in our play approach, we had quite a concentrated and serious audience, something you would not associate with the audience here normally,” he said.

He said the response has spurred them to do more performances.

“We want to encourage more local audience to patronise theatre and not the majority international audience. Theatre can only flourish if we have support from the local masses,” Kapiri said.

He said, for a minute, he thought they were still in Zurich, Switzerland and not Lilongwe in Malawi.

“That says something about the state of theatre in the country. Definitely, we must reconstruct this. Migrant Arts will play a role to attract local audience because this is what can grow theatre in the country,” Kapiri said.

Kapiri said, recently he was in the country temporarily after long -term Masters studies in theatre directing, besides practising theatre, in Switzerland.

“It has been almost five years during which the outfit Migrant Works ( now renamed Migrant Arts) was grounded, combining European theatre makers and Malawian ones in various projects in Europe. It has always been our dream to make our presence in Malawi strongly felt. This is the time to do that,” he said.

He said ‘The Island’ production, which they intend to take to other areas, has emerged as a reflection of what him and Mbene consider to be some personal migrant experiences in Switzerland . Kapiri said, in the piece, they play with the idea of pressure of life in Europe.

“With its rules and migration laws, Europe can sometimes be challenging but also a place of opportunity. There are things one must fulfil in order to fit in. For artists like us, it can feel like an island, isolated from home, ,prison-like, but also at the same time, economically and intellectually empowering,“ he said.

He said the play is the re-invention of ‘The Island’ though originally written by South African playwright, Athol Fugard.

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