NICHOLAS KAWINGA, Lusaka
THE Lusaka Playhouse last weekend showed Living with the Enemy again after it did so in the first weekend of October and was subsequently taken to Kitwe Little Theatre, marking 16 years since the play debuted in 2001.
The play is a Touch of Gold Productions’ theatrical piece and was produced by Linda Muwowo-Sakala and written and directed by Henry Joe Sakala, the fertile artistic mind behind the theatre outfit.
Working towards the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), which runs from November 25 to December 10, there is surely need to create awareness in the space of GBV and its obtaining vices.
It is a thematic and befitting play on the subject, depicting how brutish and callous some spouses can be. And the message was clearly and dramatically conveyed.
But it is an expert thinking that, the more times a play or any other piece of art is performed, the better it gets, but questioningly so, Living with the Enemy, had very little improvement to it. Say, actors should be more confident, fluid with stagecraft, lines smoother and oiled, but we had even Mulwani (Yombwe Mbuyisa), stumble on lines. Surprising!
And those assigned to open the play, having a lot of artistic responsibility, must take time to think through their impending entry onto the stage and endeavour a little more to start the play on a required tempo. The play was started low, with less assumed interest. Well, it did pick up at some point and it was pleasing to see Misozi (Ardes Suntwe) return from the workshop with a traveller’s bag, as opposed to only a handbag.
We know, fights in plays and films are highly choreographed, but to have Mulwani beat and smash Misozi behind a couch, took away a lot from that act though it was compensated later on with a kick on his bottom, which healthily split the audience, with some enjoying it, while others openly abhorred. A good artistic bit that one.
I have contended before that when a play is written and directed by one person, it is seriously starved and denied of some artistic creative ingredients and necessary detail. More than one, opposing or parallel creative minds are always better.
It provides checks, or questioning to the validity of text for instance, like why have Mulwani, talk about children that are not there. “You are going to be a house-wife and you will take care of the children”. It’s said like the kids are already in the family. This can be confusing because the couple hasn’t got children yet.
And Musiye Kuseniseni (Henry), a ‘young single handsome neighbour’ who was sympathetic of Misozi’s abusive marriage, managed to stir enjoyable performance and laughter whenever he appeared for Mulwani or Misozi, much to the delight of the audience.
But the single Musiye had a wedding ring on his finger, a contradiction. Costume and other ornaments must better identify a character from an actor as a person. A different play director could have seen that coming. Or why have a character repeatedly talk about what he is yet to do. Soliloquising. Why not benefit from the power of dramatic suspense, just let the character carry out the intent without foreshadowing. Well, maybe, it’s different artistic techniques.
They say, a very circus has a clown, and the clown of this ‘circus’ was Pangani, the houseboy, played by Gordon Mutale. With his incomparable silly tantrums and deep love for his choir, he easily managed to irritate his boss, Mulwani. The ‘goon’ was overly a darling to the audience. He only turned gloomy when for no reason of his, was fired.
Mrs Chanda (Mukonde Kaemba) was another respite of joy, of course backed by years of experience. She pushed a tradition norm agenda that women who are loved should occasionally allow themselves to a beating, otherwise the man doesn’t love them.
An attempt to dress the set was made. Though but still, some stage business was yawningly missing again. Okay, I could be just a vexing silly theatre pundit cavorting with self-ego, but come on guys … stage business really helps to ground a play. Characters, like real people, have things and a life to live and do, than just wait for lines, fights and love manoeuvres. Lines, fights and love ‘tricks’ happen naturally with stage business imbued therein, and believability is achieved even to the less critical eye.
Rita Ngosa, playing Susan, a drunk girlfriend of Mulwani with all the trappings of a prostitute, ‘killed’ it for the production. She was damn good, she executed so well that the audience identified with her character and she won their entertained hearts and souls.
Well, some cleaning work was done in the scene where the gunshot occurs, and it came through clear without confusing, this time around. And Mulwani is left on his knees begging as Misozi, resolutely walks away with Musiye Kuseniseni in a newfound love, much to the joy of the audience.
A good story, a great theatre act still, which needs to be shown around the country, more so now, with the 16 Days of Activism against GBV approaching near on.