THE April International Theatre Festival kicked off on a rapturous note at Lusaka Play house, on Wednesday with Zimbabwean thespians stealing the limelight with their play Washington Junction.
Daniel Maposa, Tafadzwa Muzondo and the vivacious Evangelista Mwatse won the hearts of many with an outstanding act on stage.
Co-produced by Muzondo and Maposa while directed by Patience Gamu Tavengwa, the play illuminated festivities that had looked set to start on a damp note with a number of organisational glitches.
A collaboration between Edzai Isu Theatre and Savannah Trust, the play marked Muzondo’s return to the Zambian stage after a string of successful appearances at the same stage where he has become a favourite.
Last year he wowed audiences with his play No Voice No Choice.
He features in the play as Washington, a failed but ambitious youth running a car wash and has done all there is to change his fortunes but fails to listen to the voice of reason.
He is manipulated into doing all sorts of dirty political jobs by Sugar (played by Maposa) who is seeking to retain his political post.
After taking Washington through the dirt (at one time having him sent to jail), Sugar leaves his runner to face all troubles alone. Washington is determined that one day he will get rich.
Despite the ambition, Washington’s dream crumbles when his car-washing business shows no signs of improvement. He fails to pay small debts owed to his master’s bitter critic Mama Zimbabwe (Mwatse).
Washington ignores advice from Sugar’s son Gonyeti, also played by Maposa, to mind his steps when dealing with his boss. Washington gets confronted by another misfortune when he is sodomized by Sugar, who believes the ritual will better his fortunes.
Washington gets another permanent dent on his ego when, on the same night he is sodomized, he realizes that the love of his life Liz (also played by Mwatse) is in an affair with Sugar.
Mama Zimbabwe comes to the rescue with a clear political ambition that will see their community changing and gets all the support from Washington who has become a turncoat.
The story’s thematic framework explores various topics with intensity and ultimately presents female leaders as the hope for the masses on the political front.
“Writing the play, I thought it was a Zimbabwean story but when it premiered at the April International Theatre Festival, I actually realized that it was an African story because it resonated very well with people from Zambia, Malawi and Botswana who watched it. I was touched to realize that the play has a universal message which is anti-bad governance,” said Muzondo.
Before the Zimbabwean play, Zambia’s Blood Ties had opened the festival with a typical African story of a clash of parental egos interfering in their children’s marriage.
Played by Mirriam Zulu (Jennifer), Evans Nkoya (Batwell), Eddie Tembo (Mr Samanani), Christine Ngoma
(NyaGondwe), Evelyn Tembo (Attinas)and Brian Kambenja (Mutengenibwino), the play is currently one of Zambia’a most successful productions after scooping all the theatre-related gongs at the Ngoma Awards.
The Ngoma Awards are the equivalent of the National Arts Merit Awards in Zimbabwe. The Bright Banda-directed play has a beautiful storyline, but fails to maintain its momentum to the end.
Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe are participating in the festival which runs until Sunday