A handful fans turned up on Saturday night to the first of the two memorial shows organised for deceased theatrical powerhouse Du Chisiza Jnr at Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe.
One of Du’s famous plays, De Summer Blow, was showcased at the show which was organised by the deceased actor’s children and some actors who worked with him.
With the event billed to start at 6pm, it delayed as only a few fans had arrived at that time.
Two hours later, the stage was brought to life because of a music performance and poetry recitals before some of Du’s seven children present at the function took turns to pay tribute to the fallen actor.
Also, as part of the build-up to the play, Ben Wandawanda, who was one of the MCs at the event, and is the only member of the original cast that worked on the new production, went down the memory lane recollecting the times he had with Du. His introspection gave the audience, both those that watched Du and those that did not, an idea of the kind of person he was behind the scenes.
At around 21:35, the play started with Doreen Chisiza assuming the role of the late Getrude Kamkwatira as NyaPhiri while Misheck Mzumara fitted into the shoes of Frank Patani Mwase as Godfrey and budding actor Kelvin Ngoma played Peter, a role originally played by Wandawanda.
While everybody was in top form, Ngoma stood out and it did not come as surprise to some as the actor is one of the few Malawians in the newly released The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind which is directed by Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor.
As the story unfolds, a scene that is much relatable to life today comes when Peter succumbs to peer pressure from his friend Wonder, played by Thlupego Chisiza, to smoke chamba.
Also, the link between sorcery and social ills comes to life when Peter comes home sozzled up and high from marijuana after a day out with friends.
His parents and grandfather, played by Edwin Saidi who earnestly fitted into the big shoes of Du, all blame it on evil spirits and they travel to Karonga to find traditional relief to Peter’s sudden change.
The agony of modern day parenting rears its ugly head when Peter’s mother has little or no time at all to check on what her son is doing.
As a spoilt child, Peter always gets what he demands. He is given money by the mother yet she knows nothing about what he is using it for, nor does she have an idea of his whereabouts.
Even when the house-helper comes with a pack of chamba found in Peter’s clothes, she is busy on her phone while commanding him to drop everything in her son’s bedroom.
The long and short of the story is that Peter is disowned by the father, an action that resonates well with some Malawian parents who oftentimes mete out such punishment on misbehaving children.
Despite the low turnout, every actor came through and the entire production team took time and invested in the reinvention of Du’s masterpiece.
In an interview, Doreen said the low patronage did not affect them.
“For us, it was a beautiful turnout, the audience was engaged and we gave out our best. For now, we are focusing on Blantyre,” she said.
The Blantyre memorial show is scheduled to take place on March 10 at Blantyre Cultural Centre.