Harare, July 22nd 2015 | Gideon Jeph Wabvuta
Athol Fugard has always and still is one of my greatest storytellers of all time, since the first day I bumped into Sizwe Bansi is dead then No Good Friday. So picking the play was quiet an easy task for me. When I picked up Nongogo, even before I had gone through the first act of I knew this was the play for me. It was bridled with so much passion, the character’s desires were so concrete and vivid like Johnnie’s cloths. I was so in love with the play that as soon as I was done with the first read I texted my friend, ‘I found THE play’. Then being granted the opportunity to direct it with a cast made up of professional actors with more experience than me was just the proverbial fresh cream (I hate icing) on the cake.
First rehearsal: The story moved from the page and took up a life of its own from the very first reading, getting the awesome privilege to hear the play being read aloud and instantly correcting and/or adding some of my directing notes. The whole process was like a roller coaster ride were initially I had assumed I would have more time and now I had only 22hours to deliver a good show! The actors also were skeptical about the amount of time they had, was it enough, would we have a good show, and all sorts of questions that had me panicking in my belly but with a clear cut smile on my face and crisp words that said, we are fine and we will have a good show. Of course I believed that, but over the following 22 hours of rehearsal (21 that time) my resolve was tested.
I consider myself a pretty technical director (already calling myself ‘director’) i.e. I have a lot of theoretical background in directing with a somewhat not so expansive practical base, so in turn I had a lot of my ‘theory’ that I needed to try out. Whoever gets to guinea pig on professional actors, ME! I soon discovered that directing the professional actors was also trying to balance between doing the work and at times stroking their egos and in the same breath smiling through your teeth and telling them that was a not so ‘correct’ choice of action. The actors were quite receptive and the room was always full of energy, well besides the fact that I could never seem to seat down at all, there was laughter and joy in the room which I strongly feel created an environment that was conducive for inspired work.
I thoroughly enjoyed this process and like I always tell my friends,’ I hate watching shows that I have written or directed, it’s like me marrying off my daughter;’ thus on performance day I sat right at the back and watched the audience and not the play. I am a people watcher-yes I know that’s creepy-but what I saw in the audience made me proud of what we had made, their laughter, sadness, empathy and attention thrilled me. Here were a group of people who had taken a moment out of their busy lives to come specifically to see what we had created. There is no greater satisfaction than knowing that there are here for you. We did it and in Johnnie’s words ‘Today is (was) make or break day for me and I want to know which it is’ For us it was make day!!