Impisi starts at dawn on the African grasslands. Nkosi is hunting by the waterhole. He watches as different animals come for their morning drink – monkeys, baboon and finally kudu. Nkosi stalks but at the crucial moment he is brought up short as his leg gets caught in a wire snare, set by his deadly enemy – man. As he lies, held by the snare, he hears the eerie sound of Impisi the hyena. He knows he must escape before Impisi returns with the rest of his tribe, the dreaded sisterhood.
He pulls his leg out of the snare but his leg is permanently damaged. As he rests under a tree he is visited by different animals – baby warthog stares at him; meerkats call him names and mock him; vulture wants to eat him; elephant pays homage to the fallen king; ostrich sympathises. As he begins to recover he moves away from the waterhole, but soon encounters Impisi the hyena who is looking for some rotten meat for his evening meal. Nkosi is so hungry he tries to steal the meat. Impisi and Nkosi challenge each other, fighting and arguing. Nkosi refuses to accept that he is now like Impisi – the ugly scavenger as he sees it – at the bottom of the pile.
Eventually Nkosi begins to see that Impisi is trying to help him and it is only his pride – and self pity – that is preventing him from beginning to regain his status. They begin to hunt together, initially unsuccessfully. But Nkosi begins to find his strength and realises he needs to challenge himself.
A successful buffalo hunt, helped by Impisi, brings Nkosi back to a place where he can become pride lion – through a change of attitude, the help of others and self belief he can be what he was destined to be.
Impisi teaches children about difference and impairment. It prompts thinking about living as a person with an impairment in an able-bodied world and how the actions of others, and the reactions to those actions, can impact heavily on everyone’s success in life. It encourages young people of all ages to think about resilience, to learn how to deal with failure, criticism and when facing adversity. The play can be used to support work based on British values which are: democracy; the rule of law; individual liberty; mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.
By using a hyena as one of the main characters we can see that our prejudices are misguided. Hyenas are seen as ugly, deformed scavengers. In truth they are intelligent, organised and effective hunters. We see how Nkosi’s self image and attitudes hold him back initially, but we see him change as he interacts with Impisi and eventually by working together he achieves his destiny. Every animal in the play serves a learning purpose.
Clive will visit your school in Devon, South Somerset or West Dorset and run workshops and story time sessions based on the play. He can help kick start a rehearsal process if you wish to perform Impisi.
If you would like to purchase a copy of the Impisi Script and its performing license, please visit our dedicated page.