Last Updated on October 3, 2021
Mufaro Makubika’s writing and a joyful cast creates a touching story of intergenerational links in Zimbabwe.
Malindadzimu, meaning “resting place of the deified ancestors”, is the historic burial ground of important figures in the Mwari religion of Zimbabwe in the Matobo Hills. In 1902, Malindadzimu became the controversial resting place of the remains of Cecil John Rhodes. Inspired by the Rhodes Must Fall movement in South Africa, playwright Mufaro Makubika (Shebeen) creates a touching play showing the blurry relationship between three eras – the era of the ancestors, the colonial era and the post-colonial era.
The play begins with Hope (Kudzai Mangombe), a 15-year-old girl from Nottingham and daughter of a single, Zimbabwean mother, having taken an overdose. The plot revolves around her mother, Faith (Shyko Amos), doing all she can to help her daughter recover. The play tracks the success of their migration to Zimbabwe (the reverse trip that writer Makubika made as a 16-year-old) through the lens of their rocky relationship, with strong performances from both Mangombe and Amos highlighting the differences and similarities between Zimbabweans born in Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwean diaspora.
In Zimbabwe, we meet Gogo (Natasha Williams), the veteran housekeeper of Faith and Hope’s new farm, who is as much a part of the farm as the land itself. Williams steals the show; she is consistently hilarious, in both her delivery and her physical comedy, as well as being capable of moments of real intimacy. A particularly amusing scene involves the sharing of skills between Gogo and Hope – Gogo teaches Hope how to make peanut butter, while Hope shows Gogo how to use Instagram.
Another highlight is the spirit doctor and “huge Nottingham Forest fan” (Tendai Humphrey Sitima), whose belief in Hope’s visions proves important in bringing the family together. Makubika’s ability to draw together all the generations of Zimbabwean history into one cohesive narrative gives this play a structure and pace that is thoroughly engaging. It is executed with sensitivity and joy by a cast that creates completely believable, touching and wholesome relationships.
The intimate setting of the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs provides a containing space for the intense tale of African history and family trouble, fit with African singing, TikTok-style dancing, traditional rituals and modern technology. Director Monique Tauto makes use of the space well; we get a sense of both the expanse of the land and the, at times, claustrophobic nature of the relationship. The soundscape gradually builds as the play progresses, climaxing in a gripping and frenzied finale that achieves the full potential of the ensemble cast that works so well together throughout.
Malindadzimu tackles difficult issues with poise and panache, resulting in a thoroughly educational, enjoyable and striking 95 minutes.
Malindadzimu at the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs runs until 30th October. Tickets can be purchased here.
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