Back to the Tricycle, my favourite theatre in London. (Theatre Royal Stratford East is a close second). When I was at high school in Zimbabwe, my love of theatre was first stoked by a hilarious, witty theatre troupe called Over the Edge. One of their alumni, Lucian Msamati, who has gone on to have a glittering TV career (Game of Thrones, Luther, No 1 Ladies Detective Agency), directed this sharp, funny debut by Zimbabwean playwright Denton Chikura.
The play centres around an unassuming goat herder called Nhamo who might just be the guy to star in an epic African adventure. It’s clever, fast and just so much fun. The cast are members of Tiata Fahodzi, the British African theatre company, and this is Msamati’s directing debut as their new artistic director.
It’s something of a play within a play – and the adventure is constructed in front of the audience, rather than simply unpacked. It’s a classic story (young man becomes hero, survives perils to get the girl) imaginatively told. It’s expansive, giving room for the cast to weave a tale in the best storytelling tradition but also demolish familiar tropes about Africa.
Ery Nzaramba captures Nhamo’s naivete and deadpan wit, which is balanced by Nyasha Hatendi’s thoroughly epic villain, a comic figure that’s more of a thrwarted hero with delusions of grandeur than a criminal mastermind. If the hero is rather unassuming, his future wife is anything but a passive damsel waiting to be saved. Tanya Fear plays Chipo, who is imperious yet endearing, rather vain, smart, tough and mistress of the withering put-down. Weaving the tale for both cast and audience is Don Gilet’s narrator, who blurs the line between showman and conman, but always keeps the audience engaged and amused.
Although there are only four cast members they tear up the stage. It’s pacy, hilarious, tongue-in-cheek and surprisingly moving at times. One thing I loved about it was that the play accessible for the British audience, but with a lot of little in-jokes for the Zimbabwean audience too. It’s a witty play that demands belly laughs. Just go and see it. You won’t regret it.
Five tomatoes out of Five.