Why are the characters African wild animals and not humans?
Taking the characters one step away from humans can make hard-hitting dialogue easier for audiences – imagine having one young actor calling another an ‘ugly stinking cripple” – it is much better delivered as one animal to another. By using animals we can also use metaphor, taking our perceptions of animals as having certain characteristics is a very useful tool, such as the hyena being deformed, ugly and a scavenger. Also some animals are just funny, for example meerkats and baby warthogs, and these ideas can be utilised to bring humour to the story.
Do I need to use complicated scenery, masks and costumes?
No, Impisi was originally written to be performed in any space; from under a tree to a full theatre by actors who use only their bodies and facial expressions to portray different animals.
Both plays were conceived in the style of “poor theatre” which is described as follows:
“By gradually eliminating whatever proved superfluous, we found that theatre can exist without make-up, without autonomic costume and scenography, without a separate performance area (stage), without lighting and sound effects, etc.”
(Jerzy Grotowski, Towards a Poor Theatre, p.19). – See more at: http://www.thedramateacher.com/poor-theatre-conventions/#sthash.XgJkYMVA.dpuf
But I do realise that sometimes masks or simple costumes may be very useful in describing animals to some audiences. Mbali was conceived in the same way. You can think about portraying the “essence” of an animal on stage.
Is it possible to double up roles?
Certainly. Both plays have been written so that actors can take more than one role. Impisi was originally written as a two-hander, but has also been performed by classes of 25 children. Mbali needs 4 actors as a minimum.
Do you suggest music?
Our suggestions are that it should suit the African theme. Music could be drums, pre-recorded or freshly created using sound making items set the mood and to create the sound of African night.
What audiences are the plays aimed at?
From as young as 4 or 5 through to adult. Some scenes, for example in Impisi when Nkosi gets his leg trapped, or in Mbali in the nightmare scene might be changed for very young audiences, please talk to us about this. The plays are both educational and entertaining and can be used in schools, colleges, Universities and public spaces. They can be used as part of the national curriculum, school projects, festivals, conferences and in business settings. They can be used to encourage debate and learning about ‘difference’; disability awareness and mental health awareness.
How long are the plays?
Impisi will run for up to 50 minutes and Mbali will be a bit longer. This of course depends on the directors’ vision.
Are the plays good for learning about Africa?
Yes, they are both full of the sights and sounds of Africa, and Mbali portrays poaching of elephants, one of the major challenges that face the continent. This can be used to raise issues of poverty, land use and our attitude to the natural world. I am happy if you wish to use part of either play to suit your requirements, if you have any questions please contact me.
How do I buy the script?
If you want to buy a copy of Mbali which you can then copy click here and if you would like to buy a copy of Impisi click here. You will also need to purchase a licence to perform which is on the same page. Please specify the number of performances you are going to put on as there is a charge per performance – you cannot perform the play without this licence. Remember that 50% of royalties for Mbali go to Place2Be – a mental health charity for young people.