HIFA 2010 – final day

4 05 2010

I took it easy. I must have been HIFAed out like a lot of people are by the end of the festival. So it was just The World’s Wife, a collection of poetry by Carol Ann Duffy performed by Linda Marlowe and Threads, a contemporary dance piece performed by Moving Into Dance Mophatong from South Africa.

I was not familiar with Carol Ann Duffy’s work but it was a witty (sometimes rapier wit) collection of poems where she imagined being famous wives, or rather, wives of famous men. Faust, Quasimodo, the Devil, and Orpheus all featured amongst a few others. It helped to be familiar with who the characters were and it was very entertainingly put together by Linda Marlow to a capacity audience.

The World's Wife

Somehow Threads just didn’t appeal to me. I don’t think it was a bad production or the dancing was sub-standard; far from it. I just got tired of the poetry approach to dance. I prefer music thanks. There was some music to the piece and I did enjoy it more.


HIFA 2010 – day 5

2 05 2010

2/3 Trio Broz

Given enough musical talent you can do just about anything, including mixing classical with rap. Trio Broz are better known for their considerable classical ability so I was interested to see how well they would fuse with a Zimbabwean rap artist (Outspoken) and a conventional band. Surprisingly well! In a show entitled Musicolour it all came together well – I wonder how often they have played Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the water” with a rock band?

Just Papers was a small Zimbabwean play sponsored with the help of British Council who seem to be heavily involved in the arts scene in Zimbabwe at the moment. It was a simple story well acted and I even got a half decent photo out of it!

Just Papers

I am not usually a fan of reggae but, what the hell, at HIFA one has to take off the blinkers occasionally so I took mine off for Transit Crew with Yasus Afari. The latter is a genuine rasta man from Jamaica and he had some interesting advice for the capacity crowd which I found very funny though I think he was being serious. Yes, he even had a button with a picture of Haille Sellasie (sp?) on his jacket. Yes, I did enjoy the show and Transit Crew are competent musicians though I don’t think I’ll be out to buy any reggae just yet.

Transit Crew

HIFA 2010 – day 4

30 04 2010

OK, so I bought the CD at the end of the show in a fit of live show excitement. The CD is good but of course there is more to a live show than music. Living Room is Austrian musicians Christoph Auer and Manu Delago who play some unusual instruments. Like just about everyone in the audience I’d seen neither a bass clarinet or a hang (pronounced “hung”) – the latter looking rather like 2 woks joined together but much more musical! They played a whole mix of music and even hammed it up with paper being rustled, pulled and torn and also another plastic device that looked like something out of a comic book. But once Christoph Auer had added his clarinet mouthpiece and a few more bits it really sounded good. Bravo!

Living Room with bass clarinet and hang

Yes, it actually was musical!

iKapa Dance Theatre are a young and dynamic dance group from South Africa. They performed Stadium, in yes, a makeshift stadium. I don’t pretend that I know much about contemporary dance but I did enjoy the performance and oh boy, do those girls have hot bodies!

iKapa Dance Theatre in Stadium


I have been to the Poetry Cafe when there was a distinct air of revolution about and found the quite inflammatory poetry invigorating. This afternoon it was milder though no less enjoyable stuff from both local and foreign poets. Even Zimbabwean music legend Oliver Mutukudzi was there and lent a hand to one of his prodigies.

Hivos Poetry Cafe - a UK poet entertains

HIFA 2010 – day 3

29 04 2010

Tariro. Yes, I admit it, I had a few issues with this one. I generally felt it was unfinished work – it could have done with some trimming and paring (too long) and definitely a bit of polishing, like another month or so. The story had merit but was very drawn out and I don’t care about pedigrees of those who wrote, directed etc. – the play was riddled with cliches and that gets me like nothing else. I have really heard it all about us nasty white colonialists and that I guess is a point of view but when the aforementioned whites arrive on stage with pith helmets and statements such as “I say, we have run out of whisky wot?” I am more than a little unimpressed. Come on guys, use a bit of imagination? They did not use the talent available either. On the few occasions that the cast was allowed to sing it really did! However, I set myself the task of getting some good photos.


The Dance Foundation Course is definitely my favourite local dance group. I saw them last year and got some great photos. They did not disappoint today either but they were moving way too fast to get good photos. The programme says: “Sublime technical skill combines with the spontaneity and unbridled energy of youth”. I will go with that. It was also a huge amount of fun and they did not lose the opportunity to add a bit of politics (as shows are doing this year) too. Great stuff – thanks guys!

Dance Foundation Course - After the dust settles

I didn’t have my programme on me so I just looked at the time table and saw the next performance at the REPS theatre was a show called Manolibera. Sort of Spanish sounding but I had time to kill before the next play and well, it’s HIFA, why not take a chance? It’s this sort of show that keeps me fascinated in the arts. An artist with an overhead projector, a screen and two clowns. Fish swam, smoke (sugar poured onto the overhead) clouded into a car drawn around the clowns and shopping piled up. All courtesy of the artist (who created a lot of the sound effects too) and the overhead projector. Very clever.


Marathon is a great story with good acting by two local actors and directed by Giles Ramsey. Two men set out on a night run and discuss life, each other, relationships and confront their own future. ‘Nuff said – see it if you can.


HIFA 2010 – day 2

28 04 2010

Jutro - James Cuningham and Keren Tahor

Jutro is a South African production – a story set in World War II Poland. A bomb strikes a cabaret club and the manager and cabaret singer are trapped (temporarily). Starring Israeli South African Keren Tahor as Mina the cabaret singer who dreams of fame in the USA and James Cuningham as the manager it was a well acted comedy-drama with a clever set. “Jutro” is Polish for tomorrow.

Faster Than Light Dance Company

The young German Faster Than Light Dance Company put on a display of mixed contemporary dance. Not all of it appealed to me but the piece de resistance was the last piece set to Ravel’s Bolero that went down well with the audience. A couple of other pieces had imaginative choreography too that even I could appreciate!

I did wonder half way through the South African production of Hero why I was watching it. It was a less than subtle style of acting that I see is called “physical theatre” in the programme. It was difficult to know who the play was directed at and certainly the children sitting next to me were not in hysterics. Still, I had to admire Craig Morris’s pure energy as he did all his own sound effects and stunts and by the end of it I was sufficiently won over to the story line of a childhood fantasy superhero who never really grows up to say I would recommend it. Craig was a HIFA 2 years ago with Blood Orange, another piece of physical theatre based on a South African book. I preferred Blood Orange.

Hero - a character gets suicidal

Olga Domnina is a Russian pianist with and impressive musical pedigree. I must admit that although I enjoy classical music I cannot always appreciate when I am listening to something good. However even I could understand that I was hearing something impressive in her Rachmaninov sonata No. 2 and my friend Caro (who does know what she is talking about) confirmed that it was virtuoso playing. A pity the light was so bad in the recital room where she was playing – the photo is not good. It’s also an example of where not to sit to get pianist photos!

Olga Domnina playing Rachmaninov Sonata No. 2

Last on my list for today was a play originally called Black Jesus (they changed the name to something else from what was on the progamme – I have no idea why but that’s artists for you). Excellent theatre by expat/diasporan Zimbabweans living in the UK it is a play about a play that they want to bring to Zimbabwe which explores the relationship between a prisoner accused of committing atrocities in the run up to the 2008 election, a government official and a representative of a “Truth and Justice Commission” set in a future Zimbabwe. Clever stuff with more than an occasional swipe at the current regime. At the end they asked the audience how they might change or improve on the play. I thought they should leave it as it is.

Black Jesus (or whatever it was called)

HIFA 2010 – day 1

27 04 2010

It’s HIFA (Harare International Festival of the Arts) time again and not only have they got it together with very little money they have even got the biggest programme ever!

I went to the opening press briefing and decided that I never wanted to hear another “we are so excited” again. Still, it is necessary for the sponsors/partners and media who were out in force for the only real festival of entertainment on the Zimbabwe calendar.

Mark Nizer

Mark Nizer

Mark Nizer is an American comedy juggler who came to HIFA last year. I decided to go and see his show on a bit of an impulse and I must admit I was impressed. He is polished, imaginative (yes, computer graphics, lasers etc.) and very funny. HIFA 2010 was definitely off to a good start. He claims to have actually entertained the jury for the O J Simpson trial and won a world juggling award in 1994. Well that’s what it says in the programme and I can believe it.

Magmanus - Cirkus Cikor

Next was a Swedish based “contemporary circus”. I am not at all sure what “contemporary” means in this context but it was nothing like the circuses I saw as a child – even without the animals. I suppose the audience did laugh quite a bit but it seemed full of jugglers with angst, intentionally dropped skittles and juggling balls… Odd. I think a lot of it went straight over the heads of the younger audience of whom  there were quite a number.

Ria Mushonga of The Unsound

Occasionally at HIFA I take a complete chance on a show (well, that’s half the fun!) and it turns out to be a winner. I’d never heard of The Unsound and indeed, the band was created to put on a show for this HIFA. As individuals it seems that they have been around for a while as the Global Stage area was filled to capacity. What a talented group of musicians! Lead by Rina Mushonga who also wrote all the songs, they gave a thoroughly enjoyable and polished performance and had even got in a sizable backing choir from one of the private girls’ schools in Harare. I’d hesitate to describe the music as rock – maybe like Tracy Chapman but considerably more dynamic. So if they come to a venue near you give them your support – you won’t be disappointed!

The traditional HIFA opening show was this year replaced by a mass choir performance of Carmina Burana. I don’t do crowds well so I gave it a miss. It sounded impressive from the outside but I met more than one group of people who complained of over crowding. No excuse for that!

The Unsound