Thlupego Chisiza and his Lions Theatre on Friday premiered a special tribute, What Lies Ahead, to his late father, Du Chisiza Jnr, at HS Winehouse in Blantyre.
Du Chisiza Jnr who was a theatre genius— and, with his now forgotten Wakhumbata Ensemble Theatre, staged several plays— died on February 24 1999.
Thlupego was expected to stage the play on February 24 but, due to other challenges, failed.
The one-and-half hour play did not attract a huge audience on Friday but those who came had a night well spent, as the production has a powerful message that calls on the youth to wake up from their slumber and take action on issues affecting them.
The play also tells old-timers that they have served enough and now their time was up.
According to Thlupego, What Lies Ahead is a play whose title is based on his grandfather’s book Africa What Lies Ahead.
Although the story focuses on church leadership, it surely is a political piece that even attracted the presence of staff from Censorship Board.
Renowned actor and Member of Parliament, Bon Kalindo, popularly known as Winiko, and former minister in the People’s Party (PP) administration, Moses Kunkuyu, were present during the premiere.
In the play, Bishop Nthumbwana, played by Allison Mpunga, is facing pressure to step down from some of his church membership, particularly Ngozo, played by Robert Magasa.
But, despite being old, Bishop Nthumbwana does not want to let go of his position and tells off those who want to snatch his hot position, vowing to deal with them.
He uses all the tricks in the book to discipline those challenging his leadership, including using his nephew Wema, played by Tendai Scander, who is engaged to Ngozo.
Bishop Nthumbwana actually rewards Wema with a top position in the church, with the aim of pushing her to corner the husband.
There is another member in the church by the name of Mgwagwa (Chinsinsi Stonken Banda), who is close to the Bishop and plays the role of informant to him.
Mgwagwa plays his cards right by informing the bishop of every move that Ngozo and his uncle Du (Thlupego Chisiza) makes and, he in turn, is rewarded with huge sums of money.
Actually, Ngozo nearly falls into a pit because of his love for Wema but, with support from uncle Du, he overcomes the situation.
The play’s ending is even dramatic in that the bishop, who is old and past his prime, is told outright by Ngozo and his team during one of the youth gatherings that it was time he stepped down and gave a chance to the youth.
“We are tired of being told that the youth are the leaders of tomorrow. Which tomorrow are you talking about? You have done your part and you should give us a chance,” Ngozo said, attracting applause.
The play has a powerful message although Thlupego and team need to work hard, in terms of rehearsal, to bring more action and energy into the production.
Kalindo could not hide his excitement with the play.
“Tonight was a special night. Malawi has talent but artists are not supported fully. Had it been that this play was from America, this place would have been full but this is Malawi where artists are sidelined always,” Kalindo said.
He said he was impressed with the performance as well as the message in the play and further said he was also tired of what was happening in our country.
“I am equally tired and you can go and tell whoever. We are tired. For those, who have travelled outside the country, you will notice that Malawi is not developing. The problems we have today were created by our forefathers and, if we let it pass like that, our children will suffer,” Kalindo said.
He said artists have a duty to criticise duty-bearers and come up with mature productions.
“Please don’t stop the fight. To be in government, you also have a duty to criticise. But, here in Malawi, when you criticise, you are deemed an enemy. I came here to watch the play not as a Member of Parliament but an artist,” Kalindo said.
He then pledged K50,000 to Thlupego and Lions Theatre to assist them take the production to a better venue.
Thlupego said he would continue the journey that his father left, going by Wet’s slogan “as the journey continues”.
“I miss my dad. I only staged with him for a year and three months before he died and he never taught me anything. It’s a shame that Wakhumbata is no longer there because of family issues. As for me, I am trying hard with the little resources I have,” Thlupego said.
He said they were working on taking the play to other places.