William Shakespeareâ€™s tragedy Romeo and Juliet has been told through many angles. Nanzikambe Arts did their part on Sunday in England by performing a remake of the play the African way. And they did it in Shakespeareâ€™s own backyard.
Nkhwachi Mhango, Nanzikambeâ€™s special projects manager and actor, said in an e-mail interview from London the play, dubbed the African Romeo and Juliet, was staged in Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare on Saturday.
â€œThe play has been adapted to a modern day local village setup. The theme of love as portrayed by Shakespeare relates well to our country where parents play a role in marriages,â€ said Mhango.
Romeo was played by Misheck Mzumara, Juliet was Maureen Mathala. Mhango was Benvolio, Aaron Ngalonde acted as chief and Mercutio. Capulet was done by Jafali Amadu and Montague was Hussein Gopole. Thlupego Chisiza was prince while Frier Lawrence was Mphundu Mjumira.
After the show, Mhango put up a statement on Facebook saying: â€œHad a great show at Stratford upon Avon. It was cold, but we managed to put up a great performance. I liked every bit of the show, packing stuff ready to come to Malawi.â€
Earlier in the month, the theatre company showcased And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night at the Africa centre in Convent Garden (Central London) and Jack Mapanje, on whose memoir the play is based, was there to watch it.
Mhango admitted the actors were a little nervous to face the English crowd, but soon they caught on.
â€œIt was great to perform the piece in London; we were scared at first to perform in front of an English audience. Itâ€™s tricky when you compare with the Malawian audience which is very responsive when the play is rolling while the English audience remains silent throughout and applause at the end.
â€œThe first challenge was to get audience in the middle of a busy London. We had a great first show, then we lost audience in the second and third shows with about 15 people coming. But after we got a review in the Financial Times, we picked the momentum and we have been having full houses and sold out shows,â€ said Mhango.
The earlier shows competed with the London 2012 Olympics, but Mhango said they sailed through and got standing ovations in all their shows. He saluted Malawians in the United Kingdom (UK) for their support.
The artists also enjoyed a rare treat when they got invited to a party at the Malawian Embassy. They met Malawian athletes and Malawians living in the UK, many of whom came to the shows at The Africa Centre.
â€œInteresting enough, we had tight schedules that were cutting across two different productions being directed by two different directors, but since the team was among the cream of what Malawi has to offer on stage, it was easy to get along.Â