NICHOLAS KAWINGA, Lusaka
AN ALL_TIME Joemwa Msinje Mwale master-piece of a play “Aliele, Let Lela Go” was last week on stage at Lusaka Playhouse, directed by Henry Joe Sakala and produced by
The audience was treated to a sweet and refreshing play that addresses serious topical developmental issues in a comic but socially palatable display, and the cast was out to do a great act. A hearty fill of laughter and a self-take to quiet, echoed the auditorium as touchy issues gashed out of the drama.
A story set in the rural community of Chipata, opens to a neat and well-built single set, giving the play a likeable start, and indeed, for the audience to anticipate a good theatre performance. The tempo of delivery and song, so calm and in a controlled atmosphere, actualised a real village scenery.
With a mixture of seasoned and rookie artistes, the play director, Henry, who seems to have mellowed with time, struck a right balance and must have had an enjoyable experience that only such a wealth of talent would benefit a production of this artistic height.
Aliele (Diweli Mpululwa) is in a feud with retiree businessman, Zaithwa (Frank Ntewewe) of the same village, and continuously accuses him of having embezzled funds where he worked. Much of it, of course, is pure petty jealous from Aliele who fears the presence of Zaithwa in the village, threatens his status, and vows to oppose everything his assumed enemy proposes or does to improve the village community.
Christine Ngoma, playing wife to Aliele and mother of Lela (Mercy Challah Wapamesa) is an old hand, and was a right pick for the role, anchored both the family and the production so well. Sometimes, conspiring with her daughter to undermine Aliele’s authority, at the other, trying to reason and advise him positively so. Whenever he threatens a physical fight, she stands-up to him, right in his face, and the audience enjoyed her cheek.
Minister of Justice and Kabwata member of Parliament Given Lubinda, who is also National Theatre Arts Association of Zambia (NATAAZ) patron, observed at the close of the production; “when I was invited to watch this play, I already had so many meetings in the day and I feared I would sleep in the auditorium, but I now feel greatly rejuvenated to watch two more plays straight on, it’s a great production”.
Lela and Waka (Clive G. Nyirenda), the children of the two families at loggerheads get along very well; and both are school-leavers. And some teenage love-affection is fluidly flowing in between, though Waka’s mother (Sheeba Tembo) and wife to Zaithwa, does not approve of such a relationship. Aliele in turn, thinks that would be an affront to his values. And the children are at a crossroad, why should their parents’ differences affect them this way?
Well, the production is well spiced with a traditional dance performance, neatly blended into the play, that infectious African drum-sound, and the dancing, the audience was deliciously entertained. The village council meetings happened only to the lubrication of the traditional drink in a string of beer calabashes, a marvel to watch.
Jeff Mwenda, playing elder Bitiyele, betrayed by his taste for booze and given to a split personality, tickled the audience to tears. And Abamu (Miyoba Simayili of the Bonyolo TV drama fame) was another elder in that village and dispensing wisdom from an oiled tongue, the two, just a weird act.
The play, gets to a head when Lela is accepted to attend a teacher training college, but her father, Aliele, cannot afford the financial obligations involved. Zaithwa realising the good it would bring the community should Lela receive college education, offers to help. But Aliele would not let Lela go to college under these circumstances. Everyone in the village begs him to let the young lady go to college.
But is she to go? Good triumphs over evil.
A well-articulated story of how personal pride blinds human nature, from communal good and collective responsibility in our midst. Joemwa, having been raised in a rural setting himself, manages to understand the social intricacies obtaining in such communities. A great tell, and intelligently executed.
Other members of the cast are Karen Ndhlovu (Sipesina), a friend of Lela and John Phiri (Siwalaza) another elder in the production.