Bringing author Marechera’s unique patois to the stage

One of the most significant pieces of African literature is the novel, The House of Hunger, which will be brought to life outside the DUT Courtyard Theatre this week.

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Running until Saturday, The House of Hunger is a pioneering new stage adaptation of the award-winning novella by the Zimbabwean writer, Dambudzo Marechera (1952 – 1987).

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Written and directed by Roel Twijnstra in collaboration with Jerry Pooe as musical director, and presented by the Durban University of Technology’s drama department, the play reflects Marechera’s vision of life in colonial Rhodesia.

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A press release states that the author touches his readers’ nerve ends through his harrowing evocation of a life dominated by white settlers, while highlighting the disillusionment of a young black man, and the attendant individual suffering in the 1960s and ’70s.

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During our one-on-one, the Dutch-born director of the production, Twijnstra, tells Tonight what he found most appealing about the novel and his reasons for wanting to stage it.

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“Jerry Pooe and I have worked together for 18 years and, three years ago, we started adapting South African novels.

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Copy of TO NDR house of hunger 4c“So The House of Hunger is the fourth in line and why we liked it is that these novels contain such a strong story and adaptation into theatre which makes it more accessible for a bigger audience. And the bigger plan for us is to tour these productions in African countries,” he reveals.

Sharing his thoughts on the author of the novel, Twijnstra says Marechera is like no other writer.

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“I have never read something like that.

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“It’s so strong in its language. Marechera is so angry. He’s angry about man-women politics, but under that is a strong urge for freedom and individuality. It’s not only shouting,” he laughs.

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As we chat, he tells me the play is not your usual theatre show.

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“You can compare it to an underground session music event. We work on a catwalk and the audience is like in a concert, standing or seated, but not a theatre venue. And the costume is done by Philisiwe Twijnstra, who achieved amazing results”.

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What makes the production interesting is the dialogue and manner in which Marechera has written the novel.

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It’s written in English, but it’s also very African. Twijnstra says this has been the biggest challenge for the cast in the show:

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“The English language that is written by Marechera created another rhythm. It is spoken word, poetry, but also a novel.

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“He is using English words that no one would ever use, but it sounds beautiful.

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“As a black writer, he really wanted to transform the English language into African rhythms. The whole idea behind it is very challenging for the actors to connect with.

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“But the show is a kind of mindset that sounds rude, but will take people out of their comfort zone. It’s not a deep, dramatic drama.

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“It’s celebrating sexuality, violence, and stuff that might be confusing for an audience in a funny way. It’s not meant to shock the audience, but it is a show that people can connect to.”

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• The House of Hunger stages outside the DUT Courtyard Theatre until Saturday at 6pm. Book at 031 373 2194 or e-mail lebohangs@dut.ac.za.