The Epic Adventure of Nhamo the Manyika Warrior and his Sexy Wife Chipo

Critics' choice
1/4
© Richard Davenport

'The Epic Adventure of Nhamo the Manyika Warrioir and his Sexy Wife Chipo'

2/4
© Richard Davenport

'The Epic Adventure of Nhamo the Manyika Warrioir and his Sexy Wife Chipo'

3/4
© Richard Davenport

'The Epic Adventure of Nhamo the Manyika Warrioir and his Sexy Wife Chipo'

4/4
© Richard Davenport

'The Epic Adventure of Nhamo the Manyika Warrioir and his Sexy Wife Chipo'

With a title as silly as the one Denton Chikura has given to his new play, you might expect something equally bonkers onstage. In this instance, you’d be right on the money: Chikura’s hilariously mad show, directed by Lucian Msamati in his first production as artistic director of British African theatre company Tiata Fahodzi, more than lives up to its name.

Blending a distinct sense of the pantomime, complete with encouraged audience interaction in the form of ‘oooos’ and ‘aaahhhs’, with a heap of references from modern British, African and American culture, the play takes us on the irreverent journey of Nhamo, a lowly goat herder from the African bush.

When the mysterious Narrator (a suave and Faustian Don Gilet) prays to the gods of storytelling for a hero for his new soap opera, they direct him towards Nhamo, an unsuspecting, simple man, who barely knows what TV is. Narrator promises he will become a hero and find a wife so Nhamo agrees to go with him.

What follows occasionally gets confusing, not least because of the script's meta-theatrical moments – the actors’ roles in the soap opera and the play itself tend to merge into one.

But despite this, the humour in Chikura’s script is wonderfully sharp. There’s a lot of remorseless teasing of lazy stereotypes and our obsession with mod-cons. Through this, Chikura cleverly gets us to consider the way cultural identity in both Britain and Africa has changed.

In truth the constant, panto-style gags would probably tire but for the four strong comic performances at the show’s heart - especially Nyasha Hatendi's superbly deadpan Commander Specimen - which lift this to a frolicking, mirth-filled night.

 

By Daisy Bowie-Sell

Average User Rating

5 / 5

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Kate Stafford

I was really looking forward to this show, as I have loved Denton's work as an actor and theatre maker (most notably in Two Gentlemen of Verona which played last year at The Globe) and worked with him during the research and development of Jack Mapanje's new play. Also this was to be the directing debut of Lucian Msamati, Artistic Director of Tiata Fahodzi and one of my favourite actors. So it was with some trepidation that I approached the theatre ... I so wanted it to be good. As this was the press night, I would see both Denton and Lucian there, and I am a bad liar, terrible at the 'darling you were wonderful' platitudes required when something is less that great. Luckily, this was a fabulous evening. I haven't laughed so much in ages, and in spite of being seated right at the top looking down at the stage, I had a really brilliant time. While the ensemble of four actors worked beautifully and they were all splendid, Nyasha Hatendi as Commander Specimen still managed to steal the show with a perfectly timed comic performance which was truly masterful. The rest of the ensemble, Don Gillet, Ery Nzaramba and Tanya Fear also had their moments of brilliance and the lovely simple set by Ben Stones was beautifully lit by Paul Keogan. This was a really successful intercultural show - with a cast drawn from Africa (Rwanda and Zimbabwe) and Britain, a Zimbabwean/British writer, a Zambian/British director and an Irish Designer, it was truly global and made full use of the opportunity to draw from differing cultures. Western cultural references jostled with Zimbabwean goatherd jokes, and on the press night the diverse audience at the Tricycle joined in enthusiastically when given the opportunity to 'ooh' and 'ahh' at the outrageous performances. This was an upfront, over-the-top celebration of humanity: I laughed my socks off. Don't whatever you do miss it!