His alleged off-stage antics might have quoted bad publicity last week, but Thlupego Chisiza and his Lions Theatre are pushing and shoving to show the country what keeps them relevant in peopleâ€™s minds.
Chisiza, who became the first actor to be arrested, jailed and fined for staging a play without clearance from the Censorship Board, has sprung back with Go To Hell, a play which calls on parents to stop politicising their childrenâ€™s marriages.
In an interview, the dramatist said the board has rated the upcoming play fit for persons over age 13, averting the dramatic setback of December 27 last year when censors and armed policemen jumped on stage and stopped Semo premiere at Nanzikambe Arts Space in Blantyre.
“Everything is set and the censors have classified the play Grade A ahead of the launch at the end of the month,” said Chisiza on Wednesday.
In the play, the vice presidentâ€™s son marries the presidentâ€™s daughter. However, the marriage cracks down and the newlyweds venture into extra-marital affairs when their parents disagree on political viewpoints.
How do they solve the breakup when their counsellors belong to different political sides? Will the wife bow down to her fatherâ€™s pressure to abort her first child?
With a cast of eight, the playâ€™s theme and conflict matures when the president dies in a car accident while his vice-president is visiting her daughter in-law in hospital. The heir to the presidency has the option to start insulting the deceased or to pursue reconciliation.
At the climax, Go to Hell seems to be a direct recount of President Joyce Bandaâ€™s rise to presidency after the sudden death of Bingu wa Mutharika on April 5 this year â€“and a repeat of Chisizaâ€™s soundly chronicled shortfall: Failure to rise above laypersonâ€™s view of contemporary political trends.
The play Semo earned scathing reviews as an inartistic and unrealistic replay of street discussions of Mutharikaâ€™s dictatorial tendencies, but the playwright-cum-actor says his upcoming feature will show theatre lovers how heâ€”and the countryâ€™s theatre sceneâ€”â€“navigates or stagnates after the power shift.
“It is very easy for the president and Malawians to tell a dead leader to go to hell, but it is uncultured to do so. Instead, the play urges the president to manoeuvre carefully and tell the plunderers and opportunists who made her predecessors bad leaders to go to hell if the country is to move forward,” he said.
The play will premiere with two shows at Kamuzu College of Nursing in Lilongwe on Friday next week. The performers head to Steers Gardens in Blantyre on Sunday, July 1.