Malawian actors shine on European tour: Nanzikambe actors head to Ireland

Two Malawian actors from Blantyre’s Nanzikambe Arts Thatre have left awed by their performances during a four month study tour on the European continent.

The actors, Thokozani Kapiri and Geoffrey M Mbene, are on a four-month long tour of Austria, German and Ireland where they are staging Dario Fo’s The Story of a Tiger. They have received glowing tributes in the German and Austrian media for how their presented the play.

Inspired by the 2011 Malawi protests against the government which resulted in 20 deaths and nearly 100 injuries, leading Malawi theater company Nanzikambe Arts responded with an adaptation of Dario Fo‘s 1978 play La storia della tigre.

Originally inspired by Fo’s 1975 trip to China, this dramatic monologue tells the story of a revolutionary Chinese soldier wounded during Mao’s Long March and left to die by his comrades. Nursed back to health by a mother tiger, he returns to civilisation determined to cure its ills.

Thoko Kapiri during the directors' training

Thoko Kapiri during the directors’ training

In Thokozani Kapiri‘s international adaptation intended for both African and European audiences, Geoffrey Mbene provides a tour-de-force performance relying heavily on pantomime and physical theater.

This production of The Story of a Tiger, commissioned by TheaterKonstanz as part of its three-year partnership with Nanzikambe Arts – Crossing Borders, von See zu See – received 10 different presentations in Germany in 2012. It was also performed at Mwezi Wawala International Arts Festival, Blantyre Arts Festival and Malawi Cultural Arts Festival.

According to Kapiri, the performances this year were based on a tour last year where they successfully staged the play in Singen, Konstanz, Ulm, Heilbronn and Friedrichshafen, all in the region of Baden Wurttemberg, Germany.

This was against the background of the three years theatre exchange program between Nanzikambe Arts of Malawi and Konstanz theatre of Germany.

“In April, 2013, me as the play’s director Kapiri and the performer, Mbene Mbunga Mwambene embarked on yet another tour. This time around not only in Konstanz was the one man play going to be staged, but also Graz (Austria), Berlin, Hannover, Alice Solomon university, Engagement Global, Metropolis Theatre, Konstanz Theatre, Konstanz University and Aschaffenburg (Germany) and Galway in Ireland,” Kapiri said.

On the May 17, the play was performed at a refugee camp in Aschaffenburg. The play was patronised by diverse nationalities ranging from North America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

“It was an emotional wreckage as a countable individual audience members draw comparisons on their individual country’s democratic values, strides and slides to that of the developed hemisphere.

“Relevant question were raise for instance on education standards in Malawi, police brutality and Chinese interest in Africa and if at all it has any progressive stamp as far as sustainable development is concerned,” he said.

According to Kapiri, for the students, the performance was an eye opener to their academic theories.

“Things they have heard and read about were artistically presented on stage and that gave them a different point of view regarding socio-economic and political landscape in Africa particularly in Malawi. One the audience member, Dominik Semik has been to Malawi during the demonstrations and felt so touched to the story as it reminded him of the events of July 20, 2011.”

This week, the pair concluded their Hannover leg of the tour and will be heading to Ireland for a Dublin performance on Friday and five other performances in Galway.

While in Austria, Kapiri also attended the IUGTE International Directing Workshop.

Speaking Nyasa Times, Kapiri said described the workshop as an “intensive practical program is designed for those who already are directors, or experienced dancers and choreographers beginning a career as a director – performing arts practitioners working in various genres, techniques and styles. If you are at the start of your directing career or need to refresh your professional arsenals, this intensive offers a great chance to gain new practical tools, exchange ideas with colleagues from different countries and to find new international network opportunities”.

Mwambene on stage

Mwambene on stage

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