Water Games premiered in May 2015 at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA), was selected for a national tour in Zimbabwe in 2016, and is now on tour in Germany in venues in Rostock, Jena, Greifswald, Munich, Berlin and Konstanz.
As Ibsen’s play from 1882, the central theme in Water Games is a looming health hazard facing an unnamed city where a dam supplying drinking water is contaminated by waste material from leaking sewer pipes. A community doctor, who tries to prevent the disaster, is accused by the mayor of the city, the doctor’s own brother, of being alarmist and an enemy of the people.
The play is directed by Jens Neumann Vilela of Paradise Garden Productions (Berlin) and has a cast of four actors from Zimbabwe: Kudzai Sevenzo, Michael Kudakwashe, Tichaona Mutore.
- It is a very pertinent story, because it deals with things that happen every day, around the world, but especially in the continent of Africa, says actor in the play Michael Kudakwashe.
Set in Harare, Water Games raises awareness on the controversial issue of safe drinking water delivery to citizenry of communities in Africa by responsible authorities.
In Zimbabwe, drinking water delivery is a nightmare. Most urban areas go for weeks with no water coming from the tap. And sometimes, even if it comes, it is dirty as if it is being pumped straight from a nearby stream without any prior cleaning, says Mlalazi.
The provision of clean and safe drinking water is a perennial problem in most African countries in the postcolonial era. In most cases, one will find that African governments inherited highly functioning water provision infrastructures from their erstwhile colonisers. Well into African independence, most of this infrastructure seems to have collapsed, and people, especially in urban areas, have no reliable drinking water delivery systems. In some cases, there is acute water shortages, and in others, even if the water is flowing from the tap, it is dirty and dangerous looking.
It is against this background that Mlalazi and the German theatre director Jens Neumann Vilela agreed to stage a play that talks about the general drinking-water situation in Africa, to bring attention to the topic and bring forward an open debate. Vilela Neumann says:
To meet the diversity of the justice situation in Zimbabwe, the European classic "An Enemy of the People" by Ibsen has been specially adapted for the current political and social situation in the country, by Mlalazi. It discusses themes of power structures, freedom of expression, the problems with water supplies in Harare, and their consequences for the wealthy and for the developing countries.
In addition to live music, video projections and audience interactions, the staging is characterized by it’s dramatic density and the diversity of expression of the players and their humor.
The future seems bright for the production, and we are hoping that one day it will get to show in Henrik Ibsen’s country as a tribute to his great penmanship for theatre, says Mlalazi.
See the 9 minute documentary about Water Games with live interviews with people in Harare on their views of the water woes facing the city and freedom of expression in general.
Commentary by instructor Jens Vilela Neumann
In Germany, Water Games will be staged at:
26.05. & 27.05. & 28.05.16 at Pathos Theatre in Munich
29.05.16 at 18:00 at TAK Berlin
30.05. & 31.05.16 at Peter Weiss Haus in Rostock
03.06. & 05.06.16 at Stadttheater Greifswald
07.06. & 08.06.16 at Stadttheater Jena
10.06.16 at Stadttheater Konstanz
Christopher Mlalazi is a renowned novelist, playwright and poet from Zimbabwe. He is the author of the novels Many Rivers (2009), Running With Mother (2012) - translated into Italian and German - They are Coming (2014), and the story collection Dancing With Life: Tales From the Township (2008), for which he was awarded the Best First Book prize in the National Arts Merit Awards in Zimbabwe.
Mlalazi has written and presented on stage in Zimbabwe eight plays, including the co-authored The Crocodile of Zambezi, winner of the 2008 Oxfam/Novib PEN Freedom of Expression Award, and Election Day, which won the National Arts Merit Award for Outstanding Theatrical Production in 2010. His poems and stories have been published in print and digitally, including the Caine Prize- anthology titled The Obituary Tango (2006) and The Literary Review, published in the United States.
He is currently the writer in residence in Casa Refugio in Mexico City (2015-2017).
Jens Vilela Neumann
Jens Vilela Neumann is a theatre director who works internationally with various partners as artistic director, lecturer, filmmaker and author. The content of his work has mostly a political and social nature. Themes like migration, transcendence and resistance are his focus. He has already worked with numerous performers in different countries and cultural contexts: with professional actors in state theaters (Grips Theater Berlin and Atze Musiktheater Berlin) as well as in the free scene (Shakespeare Company Berlin), since eight years with East-Europeans in the German language (Goethe-Institute) and also produced through PGP professional performing arts projects in Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe.