Arts | Politics | Economy | Education & Sciences23 Nov 2017
The Great Escape - Interview with Denton Chikura and Tonderai Munyebvu
6 July 2010 - redactie Africaserver Magazine
The Great Escape

Late May and early June, two Zimbabwean actors, Denton Chikura and Tonderai Munyebyu, visited the Netherlands and Belgium to perform The Great Escape. The Great Escape is a play about two adventurers trying to travel to South Africa through a tunnel. They accidentally end up in the backyard of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. The play sheds light on the everyday political reality of Zimbabwe. Chanelva Rier interviewed the actors.
How did you become involved in The Great Escape ?
Tonderai: There were no auditions, we are just connected! One person talked to another person...
Denton: Tonderai and I form a company called Two Gents, an we perform Shakespeare plays. We performed our Hamlet Show in Haika, Zimbabwe, when director Ian White approached us for The Great Escape . I was trilled, because the piece was written by Hans Wayli, who I always wanted to work with.

What kind of roles do you play in The Great Escape ?
T: I play a character called Osbon, who represents the people who travel in and out of Zimbabwe and make a living that way. He's very different from me, but I can definitely relate to him.
D: I play Memory, who has created this machine to go underground and leave Zimbabwe. He has been trough a lot. The story is set to the situation in 2005, when the government 'cleaned up' Harare, which meant destroying people's homes. Memory is one of the persons who lost their house.

The play depicts the political situation in Zimbabwe. Is it realistic?
D: It's very realistic and abstract. It's very layered. You really need to tune in to get it. There are a lot of political references in it.
T: I think people from Zimbabwe will understand it more than people from Europe, though.

To what extent did Zimbabwe shape you as an actor?
T: It's complicated. I left Zimbabwe when I was 12 and Denton when he was 19, to go live in London with relatives.
D: Leaving Zimbabwe probably shaped us to a certain extent. We are pretty successful, and I don't think that's necessarily a matter of skills. There are a lot of actors in Zimbabwe who never left who are pretty decent. It's just a matter of exposure. I don't think there's currently enough theater going on in Zimbabwe to really make a career out of it. In London you can, you don't have to take a day job. My job now is being an actor, that is just what I do.

Are you well known in Zimbabwe?
T: There are few theaters there, and we performed in a couple.
D: Only recently did we come back to do work in Zimbabwe, and debut our shows there. I think because of that we aren't household names. My biggest dream is to do what I do now, act in Zimbabwe. I'd love to base my career here. Every time I go back, which is very often now, I think of it. The quality of life is beginning to pick up a lot. Finding more funds, like the funding we received from Hivos, would make living and working in Zimbabwe a real possibility. But it's all a long term, a goal for the future.

When did you decide you wanted to become an actor?

T: I don't know when I made that decision. I was always involved and I always liked arts in general. When I was 18 I started thinking about acting en teaching. I went to an acting school in London. I think there are also schools now in Zimbabwe. But I grew up in London and went to school there..
D: I started acting when I was young, 6 a 7, in school plays. I had a very good drama teacher in school, who also worked as an actor. I would see him teaching at school and acting on stage in Harare. My interest in acting was always there, but I didn't train. Because I didn't had the money to pay for a drama school in Europe.

Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you have any idols/role models? On your website
it says that Denton likes Dolly Parton and Backstreet Boys.
D: (Laughing) I wouldn't say that they are an inspiration. They are an influence, but not a very strong one. My mother is the person I really look up to.
T: I love Liza Minelli (an older version of Madonna, who is an icon in the gay community, CR) and besides that I suppose my family is a big influence.
Chanelva Rier
Thanks to support by Hivos-NCDO Cultuurfonds, the performances of the Great Escape in The Netherlands and Belgium have been made possible.

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The Great Escape - Interview with Denton Chikura and Tonderai Munyebvu: foto
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Sites for this article:
Two Gents Productions - The Great Escape

Hivos NCDO Cultuurfonds - The Great Escape

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