Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Mwana is a Zimbabwean young man exiled to Glasgow to study medicine, but carrying the weight of his family’s expectations to a land of material temptations. Mwana’s return home for his brother’s wedding should be heroic. As it is, the initial flash of his limited edition trainers and a white Glaswegian girlfriend soon pales beside a letter from his university confirming the worst. Somewhere inbetween, cultural suspicions are flipped on their head in a drought-ridden society torn between old superstitions and the promise of a strictly scientific future where rain promises salvation rather than an ongoing head-cold.
So it goes in Tawona Sithole’s debut play, a co-production between the multi-cultural based Ankur and The Tron. Opening with an out-front declaration from Denver Isaac’s Mwana, Shabina Aslam’s production mixes forms and styles in a busy display to allow Sithole to make his point. Pulsed along by Mark Melville’s African-fused sound design, and with Kim Beveridge’s brooding video backdrop to punctuate the play’s darker moments beyond the open mike ridiculousness of the wedding DJ, at times all this feels too much for what is essentially a cross-cultural rites of passage.
If the play’s construction is compromised, Sithole nevertheless possesses considerable fire as a writer, with plenty of poetic colour in his language that overshadows the play’s more naturalistic exchanges in a story that is told from a rarely seen perspective.
Sithole’s worldview is punctuated even further by an epilogue/finale by Justin Philmore Brown, who won Ankur’s Storytelling Slam competition to write and perform a new song. Philmore Brown croons with the honeyed tones of Jimmy Cliff. He and Sithole should get together.
The Herald, February 16th 2012