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Rhythm, storytelling and fun!
Two Gents Productions will be performing at this year’s Globe to Globe festival. See Africa Differently joined them in rehearsal to talk about Africa, Shakespeare and Beyonce.
Two Gents Productions describe themselves as a ‘cross cultural’ company. Established in 2007 the theatre company is made up of German director Arne Pohlmeier and London based Zimbabwean actors Denton Chikura and Tonderai Munyeva.
With a cast of just two, minimal set and very few props – their aesthetic echoes the traditions of South African Protest Theatre - which was used during apartheid, allowing actors to pack up quickly in order to escape from the police. However, this influence doesn’t really extend beyond the aesthetic and they are keen to distance themselves from the political plays often seen performed about Africa.
As Denton says; “There is a lot more going on in Africa than just what is in the press and in our work we don’t really reference politics in an overt manner- it has got nothing to do with Robert Mugabe, drought, feminine, aids or cholera; which is what people are used to seeing a lot of the time. It is what I like about Shakespeare as well, it’s story driven, it’s plot driven.”
They have performed their version of Two Gentlemen of Verona over one hundred times, but this is the first time they will be performing it in Shona, a Bantu language, native to the Shona people of Zimbawe and southern Zambia. Watching them play out several scenes in rehearsal, it would seem the physical comedy still translates. The rapport that the two actors share creates a unique and engaging energy, both are passionate about their craft, the importance of the arts and the power of story.
Like Denton, Tonderai is also keen to look beyond the issues when talking about African culture. “What I see in the arts when I’m in Africa, apart from the issue plays, is a lot of humour and great comedians. These comedians talk intelligently about their situation- which is often so much more engaging and enlightening than overtly political dialogue.”
Tonderai is also keen to emphasise the importance of writers and musicians in shaping the world view of Africa ”There are so many incisive writers producing work, not just about Zimbabwe or Africa more broadly, but about going away and coming back- and what that means and how that affects the culture. ”
Tonderai also believes music is key to helping people to see the real Africa. “There is so much variety and vibrancy in African culture and music plays an important role! Nigerian music is great right now- it makes people want to get up and dance. The world is ready for the melodies and cheekiness of African sound which is why some of the world’s biggest stars like Beyonce are referencing it in their work. When Jay Z samples African music- it helps people look to look towards the heart of Africa; rhythm story-telling and fun!”
Articualte, charming and not shackled by expectations of what it is to be an African actor in the UK, Two Gents will no doubt go from strength to strength.
To find out how to catch Two Gents perform at The Globe or on their up coming tour take a look at their website
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