Monday 16th January would go downas any other holiday for most ordinary Malawians, but to theatre academicians, pundits and enthusiasts it was another exciting moment when they, in enlightened spirits, unpackaged the bombshell, Semo, a play written by Thlupego Chisiza and the slained university student Robert Chasowa.
The mid-day drizzles could not dampen the spirits and eagerness in Lions Theatre fans who thronged Robin’s Park in Njamba, Blantyre to witness Semo (Mose)- another political comic from Chisiza’s family, which like well-aimed arrow, haunt the current government for its current economic and political inabilities.
From on set, Semo exploded like a firework, which tinkled the bud of excitement in the expectant audience that included theatre celebrities in the likes of Michael Usi aka Manganya, Tapiwa Gwaza, Flora Suya and Jacobs Mwase, Capital Radio’s Straight Talk host Brian Banda, Poet Linda Gabriel and musicians Maskal, Diktator and lawyer-cum-musician Davis Njobvu of Edgar ndi Davis duo.
Forget the grammar errors, the sleepy-sloppy of the actors in between the lines, the scenes, but Semo qualified to be enacted as a reincarnation of late Du Chisiza’s political satire, Nyamilandu.
It is in broad sense of a term, just like Nyamilandu, a wit criticism to the current political administration, and it was of no surprise as to why law enforcers and the Malawi Censorship Board would not miss an opportunity to suppress the truth encrypted in Semo when, last year, they pounced on young Chisiza and arrested him.
However, enjoyable as the play might be, it was obvious it did not undergo the knife of the board’s surgeons with plain outburst and political comments and jokes called for strong editing.
The play is clear in its entirety that it is a pure cynical criticism to President Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration.
Fuel shortage, endorsement of the President’s brother Peter as DPP candidate in the 2014 presidential race, intimidation of civil society organizations (CSOs) and the firing of Joyce Banda from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), among other notable current political and economic woes, were all readable in between the lines, loud enough, to the taste of the audience.
One point for sure, Thlupe, as young Chisiza is fondly known, was in his father’s shoes in Semo. So critical as he was in some of his award-winning plays including Barefoot in the Heart, Democracy Boulevard and Tatuya Futi, among others.
Fun and feedback
Politics aside, the incorporation of religious and family-planning patches in the masterpiece made the play more fun to watch.
“It’s nice as far as democracy is concerned, well-crafted message, although the information is given in a lecture kind of set-up. The play gives people choices to decide, although it is clear that it is talking of the current government,” commented Randson Chingeni, secretary general for Theatre Association of Malawi southern chapter.
He told Nyasa Times: “The story is understandable, however, it is easy to notice how old and new actors have failed to blend.”
While describing the play as “more hilarious”, MultiChoice Malawi marketing manager for the south Chimwemwe Nyirenda, in a separate interview, however had a tip for Chisiza and his group.
“Much as I enjoyed the play, it lacked flow at times to the point that you could see the audience losing interest,” he said.
“ His father (Du Chisiza)’s plays had more humour and I can see he is trying to follow his footsteps, with time he will get there,” said Nyirenda, asking Chisiza to make sure there is continuity in his work.
Renowned dramatist, playwright and actor Usi said described the expertise in how the theme was blended as “impressive”
He said the Lions Theatre crew knows what they are doing and looking at the vigor they put in the production, the group has a brighter future.
“I like the play because there is freedom of expression with responsibility in it. It is balanced because the production has dissenting views,” Usi commented on the play, which attracted so much attention from the public following the arrest of Chisiza.
On the other hand, he said he would have loved to see politicians, officials from CSOs, and the faith community “since art is cross-cutting, it doesn’t look at one discipline in society.”
Semo, political as it is, has clearly proven how Chisiza deftly intertwine romance, jokes and politics.
Indeed the Chisiza spirit still reigns in Malawi theatre and shaping public opinion, ‘as the journey continues.’
Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :