No Voice, No Choice: Catharsis of Theatre

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – A BOLD new play titled, “No Voice, No Choice” written and directed by  versatile theatre practitioner Tafadzwa Muzondo which premiered this year’s Protest Arts International Festival (PAIF) tells the story of a community facing challenges on how to deal with politically motivated violence. 

In “No Voice, No Choice,” Muzondo reveals that theatre still has the power to transcend the limitations imposed by politics and can softly open up wounds which can allow communities to talk about difficult issues such as political violence. The success of Muzondo’s new offering is in that it can certainly contribute, as art does, to the enlargement of human sympathy and the awareness of hidden truths which must be faced in the search of answers critical to Zimbabwe’s future trajectory.

The play opens with a musical skit that at once drew people into its universe, and created a sense of intimacy with the audience – something that is repeated throughout the play.

The play which has a realistic edge attempts to narrativise the political violence which has rocked this country in recent years, its impact on people and how people can begin to untangle the issue. The play arouses strong emotions especially in scenes where acts of political violence are played out but manages to build a sense of catharsis – the purging of emotions by their theatrical distillation and release – both in the way that the main character narrates acts of violence, undergoes transformation coupled with the humor employed to advance the storyline.

The story is told through Gilbert Barnabas Haripotse aka Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) who has a history of terrorising and victimizing members of his own community but ends up stigmatised and ostracised. The story is told through fast paced, stage action with huge doses of humor that had the crowd perennially tittering throughout the one-hour performance.

When he undergoes a biblical-like transformation and decides to pursue peace, the decision does not go well with his political masters. However, GBH teams up with a charactter named Tellmore, a former opposition party youth who defected to the ruling party for his own safety, after talking to a professional counselor, to form the Youth Against Violence Ensemble which intends to promote peace and unity in their village. As GBH begins to narrate the atrocious act of violence that he committed, it raises question about how to promote healing and transitional justice within the community.

“This play is something that I came up with after touring the country – if our leaders are sincere about political violence, then people should be free to talk about political violence. In No Voice, No Choice, we’re saying if we can’t say it, then no-one is going to say it,” said Muzondo, adding that the play will be taken to the SADC Community Theatre Festival to be held in Johannesburg in November before embarking on a national tour.

“I was really humbled by the response – for theater to have an impact, it must entertain first. And then people can remember the issues. We tell the story in a way that people don’t forget the images and the issue,” he added.

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