New play rocks Malawi

The aficionados trickled to French Cultural Centre ampitheatre, and by the time the stage was set, all the terraces were taken and some had to remain standing while others sat in the aisles. It was the Sambang’oma Dancers who helped set the stage and mood with their traditional dance performance that showcased dances like gulewamkulu, manganje, sikiri and mchomanga.

When Kwathu took centre stage, the patrons were treated to more than an hour of tragic-comic suspense that was not devoid of conflict, packed with a coherent dramatic show of artistry.

The sheer enjoyment did not solely emanate from the fact that the cast of characters revolved around big names in Chichewa drama, but also because the plot was easy to follow. Yet, in its simplicity, the storyline evoked pertinent social questions.

Mwandilakwira is the story of one Masautso Chabwera (Charles Mphoka) and his wife (Enifa Chiwaya) who return home from England and organise a party to celebrate their reunion with their extended family. It is at this party that Kang’a Mathanki (Eric Mabedi) who is Mrs Chabwera’s uncle reveals that his niece was raped when she was just a little girl. This revelation could be dismissed as a result of Mathanki’s drunken stupour, but Makelekesa (John Nyanga), who is Masauko’s uncle makes an issue of it, wondering why that rape was kept secret all along.

Also present at this party were Masauko’s father (Evans Mbewe), sister (Esther King) and brother-in-law (Felix Mashonga). As he bids farewell to return to the village, Makelekesa advises his nephew to go to a witchdoctor to have the wealth he amased in the UK protected. Masauko has his misgivings but on his wife’s insistence, the couple make the trip to see the withdoctor.

Ekhamuni Njokazidana (Bon Kalindo) is the witchdoctor, who conducts the wife out of the ‘consultation room’ and goes through rituals to cleanse Masauko. Eventually, Njokazidana tells Masauko to go to a graveyard to perform another part of the ritual and urges him to go back to his home village and sleep with either his mother or sister. When he asks him what would happen if he slept with neither of the two, the witchdoctor threatens an unspecified calamity.

Masauko makes the trip home where he coaxes his brother-in-law to go out and buy some beer. Once he is out, Masauko starts promising to buy his sister a minibus and renovate the house.

As they are trying to calculate how many roofs may be needed, the sister unknowingly takes Masauko to the bedroom. It is here that Masauko attempts to have sex with her, but she flees, only to come face to face with Masauko’s uncle in the livingroom.

As she is crying that her brother was attempting to rape her, her husband comes back home, having found no beer.

The play climaxes when Masauko raves mad. His father blames it on Masauko’s wife, that she was bewitching him so she could go away with the property. On her part, the wife lays blame on Makelekesa for advising Masauko to go and see the witchdoctor. ‘ The Nation.

December 2006
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