Drama gives human face to Murambatsvina

CAPE TOWN - Rolling Heads, a new play set against the traumatic events of Operation


Murambatsvina, opened here last week.


The play deals with the drama and comedy of two desperadoes whose destinies cross during the nationwide slum ‘clean-up’. According to a United Nations report, the government operation to restore “legality” and order in the urban slums rendered 700,000 people homeless and affected another 2,4 million.


Rolling Heads is the story of two Zimbabweans trying to escape the madness, as homes are demolished and families scattered by the upheavals of Murambatsvina. The play highlights the resourcefulness of Osborn and Memory who make survival plans no matter what life throws at them.


The story is a crazy comic journey that starts in a cemetery where Osborn is attending the funeral of his best friend. When Osborn upsets some mourners, all hell breaks loose and he has to take refuge in a catacomb under the cemetery, where Memory offers him a way out of the mayhem.


Memory has made a magical machine, Son of the Soil, which can take them to South Africa. The two embark on a madcap underground mission full of surprises and strange encounters.


On the way they have to deal with home and the heart, pitfalls, presidents and municipal mishaps – on course for a guaranteed meeting with destiny.


Rolling Heads also has a serious side as it examines the nature of two citizens’ complicity in the momentous events unravelling around them. As audiences dig into the pasts of Osborn and Memory they uncover moments of hope and betrayal.


The play also explores Zimbabwe’s contradictory relationship with its southern neighbour where 1,5 million countrymen are said to have squeezed between the cracks in South African society. As Memory dreams of a better life in Johannesburg, Osborn cautions him about leaving home and family. He interrogates South Africa’s policy of quiet diplomacy. “If Mugabe boasts degrees in violence does that mean Mbeki can claim a Diploma in Silence?”


Rolling Heads is a Zimbabwean initiative, written by Andrew Whaley and directed by Adam Neill and features Zimbabwean actor, Dylan Wilson-Max together with Cape-based actor Thembinkosi Njokweni.


South Africans have struggled to comprehend the Zimbabwean situation. After a while statistics lose their significance. Journalists and commentators have found it difficult to describe accurately the sprawling abuse that characterises life for ordinary Zimbabweans. But through theatre, Rolling Heads evokes the heart-and-soul humanity of two Zimbabweans facing the crisis. This is their story.


Rolling Heads has also brought a totally new experience of theatre to Cape Town. Audiences watch the performance in the actual lions den of the Old Zoo and eat supper in the old lions’ cages. – Bookings through Liz Ellenbogen on +27 82 846 3818, or email [email protected]. Wednesday to Saturday until April 1. Cost: Dinner and show – R150. Show only R65. Pensioners & students (with valid cards) – R40.

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