Had a wonderful time yesterday at Chickenshed, where Border Crossings were running Sunshine on a Rainy Day, a one-day mini festival of Southern African performance. Michael Walling (Artistic Director of Border Crossings) had invited me to be on the panel for the discussion. I didn't know what to expect but was delighted to find myself sitting between Arifani Moyo and Christopher Maphosa, both amazingly interesting Zimbabweans. Ari is studying for his doctorate, and also worked for Nanzikambe, the company I founded - although a long time after I had returned to the UK so this was a big - and happy - surprise to me. Christopher was there because his life story was the inspiration behind the play we were to see later in the day - a one man show called The Rain That Washes, written by Dave Carey, directed by Kieran Fay and performed - quite brilliantly - by Ashley Maynard.
The discussion ranged widely, taking in some of my favourite things to talk about ... the role of political theatre in Africa; how Shakespeare can be used to get a subversive message across that would be censored in a modern play; theatre as education as well as entertainment, for both adults and children. Of course I talked at length about Jack Mapanje and And Crocodiles Are Hungry At Night ...
Earlier in the day we saw a lovely film called Kini and Adams. Made in 1997 it has never had a general release here, which is little short of a scandal. Directed by Idrissa Ouedraogo in English, and set in an unspecified Southern African country it is a road movie where they never actually leave town, is funny and tragic and an absolute gem. I only wish I could tell you where to get a copy. Associate Director Amy Bonsall was with me and was surprised and delighted to see that the film was featuring John Kani, who became a friend when she worked on Hamlet with him in Cape Town.
Later we had a chance to have a long chat with Dave Carey. He has also been to Blantyre, visiting Nanzikambe and working with Mphundu Mjumira and Dipo Katimba on their Street Children project. So you can imagine his pleasure at the news that Mphundu is in the Crocodiles cast and will be arriving in just a few short weeks. We are trying to arrange one of our workshops to be held at Chickenshed.
So the day had a very Malawian flavour; it was wonderful to find these connections. Michael was talking about his work with David Kerr in Botswana - another of my Malawian theatre contacts as David taught for many years at the University of Malawi. (I'm proud to say I introduced them, although I'm sure they would have met sooner or later without me!).
So now I have to get on with the pre-production. We have had some very bad news, as Dipo has had her visa application denied, and will not be able to be part of the UK productions. However, we are incredibly lucky that Angella Ching'amba is here, living in Nottingham and available to come to London to be in the show. We will greatly miss Dipo, but as Angella was in the research and development piece, After Mikuyu, it will also be a joyful reunion.