Thursday, January 17, 2013

The return of Willie Chigidi

Zvinoda Kutangira Pasi, a play by Willie Lungisani Chigidi
Published in 2011 by Zimbabwe Publishing House, Harare
ISBN: 9780797446434, 64 pages
Reviewed by Memory Chirere

Although I am yet to see it on stage, veteran Shona playwright, Willie L Chigidi’s latest and sixth play, Zvinoda Kutangira Pasi, shakes the faith of some of us who have not had opportunity to think deeply about the real lives of actors and how it may relate with their work.

Although we know that acting is imitation, would you stand it, if as in Zvinoda Kutangira Pasi, your wife appears in a local tv drama as somebody’s girl friend? Where would you put your eyes when her tv drama man gives her a lingering kiss in one scene and proceeds to go in between the sheets with her in front of the whole nation? Would you simply watch  from the couch in the sitting room? If you are in the bar with some dear friends, would you dismiss it and say: “Well, they are just acting”?

After all that, how would you feel when strangers point you out in public, saying: “There goes the real husband to that mischievous tv drama woman.”? Just where do we draw the line between life on stage and the real life of an actor? And; can actors claim that they are not affected (positively or negatively) by what they play on stage? Is our society ready yet to accept that the killer on stage could actually be a loving father and husband in real life? These matters appear simple  Chigidi seems to insist through his play that it is not.

Johannes Mabhechu cannot believe his eyes when his wed wife, Geraldine acts girlfriend to a local tycoon and serial bed-hopper called Justice. Whenever the sensational tv drama begins, Johannes either walks out of his friends in the bar or sits there, sulking. If he is in the home, he either rushes to switch off the tv or sits there scowling and muttering to himself. He does not know how to face his half grown daughters who encourage their mother.

Besides being a play within a play, Zvinoda Kutangira Pasi belongs to the theatre of ideas. Here the dramatic action is largely played out in words. There is very limited emotional and physical action. Only once do things become physical and somebody receives a slap across the face. As the title suggests, this play invites you to go back to the basics: Does drama mean the same for both African and western audiences? Do you become what you act? Willie Chigidi is keen on churning out plays that ask fundamental questions just as in; Mhosva Ndeyako, Mufaro Mwena and Imwe Chanzi Ichabvepi? and others.

However, Chigidi could have done better with the three Mabhechu sisters by making them more distinct. They tend to speak like one another and their opinions coalesce. This is a play that could be relevant across Africa and may be worth translating.

Born and bred in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe, Willie Chigidi is a Professor of African languages and literature at the Midlands State University, Gweru.

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