Tafadzwa Zimoyo Entertainment Reporter
The high-density suburbs are not just about Zim dancehall as theatre groups are mushrooming at an alarming rate like never before. Could the future of the apparently moribund Zimbabwe film industry lie in the unassuming ghetto streets?
It almost seems as though anyone who thinks he or she has a talent in acting can now wake up in the morning and decide to assemble a theatre group. It seems all that is needed is the most rudimentary knowledge of acting and the few props and costume that are required to keep the act going.
In most cases, there is no conventional script, but just crude directions and very basic rehearsals before the act is taken into the street.
In most cases, the actors are at liberty to improvise new lines and action as the performance evolves. So the rest of the cast has to be attentive and ready to meet the impromptu creativity with their own to keep the action smooth and apparently co-ordinated. It looks like acting groups being starved of support and platforms where they can showcase their talents by the limited number of professional theatres, have discovered the instant joy of street performances.
“I think there is a lot of talent among these theatre groups who perform on our streets but what they lack is adequate promotion and marketing.
“If you recall well, the likes of Kapfupi (Freddy Manjalima) emerged from the streets together with his group that included Ma- rabha and the late Bhonjisi.
“These are the people who popularised street theatre and today Kapfupi is a household name,” said comedian Tawanda Masarira popularly known as Kahembe in acting circles.
Kahembe himself is also a product of street theatre and together with his equally talented sidekick, Mabla 10 (Lloyd Kurima), made waves with their hilarious comedies “Bag Remhosva” and “Vamwe Vanhu”.
Kahembe said one of the reasons for the sprouting of theatre groups on the streets is that ZTV was not giving actors a chance to have their productions screened. The same challenge has also seen many musical groups who now go around singing their songs on the streets and selling their music to passers-by.
Kahembe says the actors should not expect instant success as it takes time to become a polished performer even if the latent talent is congenital.
“I started acting way back in 2002 and although some of my productions have appeared on radio and TV, it is not always the case that everything that you produce will find its way into broadcast.
“With my group, Tambanaye Arts Group, we then decided to take our performances onto the streets, starting in Budiriro, where we living then and then acting on the streets of Harare.
We regard acting as a business and a profession and we cannot sit back while our talents go to waste. “This is the reason why we are even selling our CDs on the streets,” said Kahembe, who has recently produced his first African movie in English titled “Hope in Total Darkness”.
His case is similar to that of Mabla 10, whose acting on the streets has turned him into a household name while he also features on musician, Jah Prayzah’s videos and songs thanks to his humorous acting pranks.
Street acting accords the theatre groups an opportunity to interact with their fans in a more direct way and also get a chance to get immediate feedback on how they are faring.
In most cases, they get paid as the audiences throw money to them during the live street performances. In Rome, street performances were famous during the era of the late renowned world playwright, William Shakespeare before the establishment of the likes of places like Global Theatre which became public squares where people could enjoy street performances.
But it is their ability to make so much with so little that may see local street theatre groups evolving into a viable film industry. Nigeria with its Nollywood productions that are popular in all Africa and beyond have perfected the art of producing movies on very tight budgets and timeframes.