Exploring a troubled life

2015-05-12 15:03

DURBAN University of Technology’s drama department is hosting performances of The House of Hunger, a new stage adaptation of the award-winning novella of the same name by Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera.

Written and directed by Roel Twijnstra, in collaboration with Jerry Pooe as musical director, it will be presented outside the Courtyard Theatre on the Steve Biko campus in Mansfield Road, Durban, from today until May 16.

Marechera rose above his deeply troubled early life in Vhengere township in Rusape, Zimbabwe, to become one of the most important creative voices of the southern African diaspora over the past half century.

His novella, published in 1978, recalls his growing up in colonial Rhodesia where his life was dominated by white settlers. It also highlighted the disillusionment of a young black man in the 1960s and 70s.

The House of Hunger was awarded the 1979 Guardian Fiction Prize.

In bringing Marechera’s work to the stage, Twijnstra says he and Pooe have tried to honour the writer’s capacity for voicing his own anger, turbulent dissent and rebellious social commentary against the far-flung injustice and cruelty he experienced during childhood.

They also wanted to capture his great longing for individuality, freedom of expression and his creative genius.

Speaking of Marechera and his work, Twijnstra hails the Zimbabwean author, who died at the age of 35, as “a dislocated writer living in a shattered repulsive environment of mindless violence, raw sex, filth and madness”.

He added: “The House of Hunger is one of the most important texts to emerge from southern Africa in recent decades.

“While it is emotionally gripping and verbally pyrotechnic, its narrative is characterised by shifts in time and place and a blurring of fantasy and reality. We have echoed this device in our stage adaptation by keeping the action non-specific with regards to the period and place.

“We have also chosen to break the mould of traditional theatre productions, and to conjure the unexpected or disruptive impact of Marechera’s writing by staging the piece along the lines of an edgy, high camp fashion show with music, dance and drama melded into the mix, in which the performers ‘strut their stuff’ on a ramp … while the audience stand by, looking in on the action being enacted before them.”

The House of Hunger is the latest in a series of dramatic adaptations of African literature by Twijnstra and Pooe. It follows their 2011 adaptation of Zakes Mda’s novel Madonna of Excelsior, a dramatisation of Ben Okri’s Famished Road (produced in 2012); and last year’s staging of Peter Abrahams’s novel, Mine Boy.

Featuring costumes designed by Philisiwe Twijnstra, The House of Hunger is performed by second- and third-year students at DUT.

There are daily performances from today until May 16 at 6 pm. To book, call 031 373 2194 or e-mail lebohangs@dut.ac.za Tickets are also available at the door. — Arts Editor

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