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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Is Bwabwalala Our Theatre Renaissance?

By Yangairo Yangairo

That theatre is on its deathbed in this country is a story never to be overemphasized. Gone are the days when theatre enthusiasts would passionately and religiously throng theatre venues in anticipation of a captivating and thought-provoking play.

Take for example how the late Du Chisiza Junior would send audiences into stitches of laughter and sombre moments through his well-written and directed masterpieces. A story is told rather hyperbolically how the late Du used to fill up the then French Cultural Centre during days when a Blantyre derby was on a stone’s throw away from the FCC. Oh, those were the days. Those were the days indeed!

But hey, if the path taken by Waz Arts Theatre is anything to go by, one might as well hold the view that the theatre industry is about to be resuscitated. Staging a play called Bwabwalala, this theatre group tried to rekindle some good memories theatre lovers used to have.

Bwabwalala is a play which is generally about two gentlemen who have lost some wealth relation. Knowing how wealthy the deceased was, the two conspire to syphone his estates. They try to no avail to corrupt the doctor to postpone the death or doctor the cause of his death.

This, however, doesn’t stop them from carrying out their plan. They eventually manage to talk to a prophet who, according to their plan, shall certify the death of their relation. The coming in of the prophet clearly paints a picture of the crookedness and criminality common in the religious circles these days.

When this whole plan is a success, the two brothers are apparently on two different pages. While one of the two is busy boozing, the other seems isolated and not as happy as his brother. He claims that his brother no longer delegates some of the duties as per agreement.

He further says that his brother has departed from the initial agreement about collection of rentals from one of the deceased houses. One needs not to be a theatre genius to know that this is direct reference to the relationship between the leaders of the current administration.

As this fight rages on, the duped brother feels like revealing everything about their evil plan. He meets the wife to the deceased and reveals that his brother is truly evil. The play comes to an end with the angry wife calling for the ouster of the leadership.

Bwabwa Lala has a very good story line.

Despite the fact that the play has some strong actors in Jeremiah Mwaungulu, Sugzo Chitete and Macdonald Sanga, It still has some few loose ends.

There are some few scenes which leave a lot to be desired. For example, the scene at the gym, I felt like it was lacking in a way. The characters in this scene are seen to be talking more to the audience than having a conversation or dialogue between themselves. Yes it is good to engage your audience, but when you overdo it, it becomes a lecture, not a theatre performance.

So there must be some improvement in that regard. And I need to note that; the gym scene was a good symbolism for it is a place where we go to better out bodies, our minds, our outlook, it’s basically a place for change, if it can be rehearsed well and executed well, that one is fire!

Again, one questions the overuse of the Tumbuka language in the play. My timing on this observation might be a little bit off, but take it from me, I am Tumbuka and I have nothing against any tribe in particular. Some might say it is just a language, but we ought to have some balance in these things.

Another thing that I felt like really needs some water tightening is the sequence of events, the transition of the scenes and the length of the same. For a minute I almost lost interest in some scenes, not because they were bad scenes, but they were long for no apparent reason. Give and take , short and sweet, keep the audience on their toes. That’s what gets you all the attention.

The prophet’s character that was played by Rodgers Siula really came in with a bang and I expected a lot, but in a way he failed to sustain the hype to his exit. It was short-lived, that can be improved. But I have to commend him that the Satan list joke was coming out nice, well done .

On Scene transition; I would say, the style of having people run on stage to remove props that were used at the end of an act, is somehow lacking, really distracts my attention. That technic was being used way back in secondary school ATEM plays, and mostly we did it behind a closed curtain, which was better than what I saw at BWABWA LALA. Next time you can try using props that a character can walk out with, or the same prop can be used for many scenes without really having to be moved.

The choice of the venue was not as good for it doesn’t have a proper theatre set up. But where else would one go as of today with the then French Cultural Center in the state that it is. If we are really talking about bringing back theatre then we should also invest in the infrastructure of the same.

Inspite of all these shortcomings, Bwabwalala is a good response to the cry out that theatre is dead in the country. One wouldn’t be in the wrong to say that the play is a renaissance of theatre in Malawi. Well done team!

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