I have come back from the final play reading in the PANSA competition a little shaken up and very emotional. This post might end up being a bit of a ramble. I suppose I need to admit AGAIN up front that I too entered a play which got an honorable mention but didn’t make it into the finals. What did however was a rambling, unintelligible, endless, complicated, indecipherable, dense discourse, A Mubiru Tragedy, written byÂ a Ugandan Edouard Kanoxo who is MIA and presumed dead. Sitting through the play reading was an untold agony. The poor cast had only the most superficial understanding of this most convoluted dialogue and plot, the poor director spent the rehearsal week cutting the script into a mere miserable one and a half hour long from an original three (God save us) and us the poor audience were rendered entirely laughless. Ouch.
Of course I couldn’t keep my fat mouth shut during the discussion and probably made my name so gat with the judges, but I was upset and incredulous. I don’t know who they thought would manage to direct a palatable version in a week and both director and cast really suffered. Thami Mbongo is a talented and creative director who was faced with an impossible task. The cast, who were 90% first language XhosaÂ speaking, were faced with having to play foreign immigrants and perform subject matter that was virtually academic in its understanding of English. Hectic. They could not survive and it was so horrible.
So again the spotlight falls on the nature of the PANSA playwriting competition. What are the criteria? How are the levels of success measured? What happens afterwards?Â I didn’t stay for the prize giving, I was too emotional. The winner’s play will get to go to the national championships and the winner of that will get funding to be put on around the country. Let’s face facts. That play is going to be the most palatable, accessible, polished and ready piece of writing, well directed and most audience friendly. What happened with Mubiru is a bit of a death sentence, and I think that is the biggest tragedy.