PoliticsNews & AnalysisTelling theatrical tales in Tiata Fahodzi


Posted on Wednesday, 04 January 2012 16:01

Telling theatrical tales in Tiata Fahodzi

By Belnida Otas

The UK-based theatre company struggles against funding cuts and audiences with fixed mindsets about how stories should be told

Actor Lucian Msamati is artistic director of Tiata Fahodzi/Photo/BBC BBC.CO.UK/DOCTORWHOAfter a year at the helm of Tiata Fahodzi, the UK's leading British- African theatre company, Lucian Msamati says it remains a challenge to tell African stories on the British stage.

Despite the social, racial and political strides Msamati says have been made in the UK, issues remain of "perception, representation and disenfranchisement."

He suggests that decision makers are only comfortable with a certain type of interpretation.

"Things have changed for the better in comparison to 20 years ago. There's more room and scope for interrogation. The struggle continues, not a militant struggle but a struggle for enlightenment," he says.

Msamati, originally from Tanzania and Zimbabwe, is a seasoned actor of stage and the small screen. He acts in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones and starred as JLB Matekoni in the BBC/HBO TV adaptation of The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

Formed in 1997, Tiata Fahodzi (which means Theatre of the Emancipated) runs the annual Tiata Delights festival each September to showcase new plays.

Msamati, the company's artistic director, showed his own piece this year called Memory Play, a historical piece about Shaka Zulu.

Previous successes have included Oxford Street by British-Ghanaian Levi David Addai in 2007, which was later commissioned by the London's prestigious Royal Court theatre.

Msamati says Tiata Fahodzi has survived recent government spending cuts for the arts and culture thanks to donations from its active 'friends group', but he thinks the cultural community could do more.

"As much as we come from a culture that is communal in spirit, we don't have a culture of philanthropy in the same way."

Msamati says it comes down to a question of pragmatism and the perceived value of theatre.

"There's a disconnect. It's funny, because a lot of people would talk about how they used to go the theatre and it was part of life but all of sudden that value has become lost."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 January 2012 16:16

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