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This time it is “Breakfast with Mugabe,” a thought-provoking play about the combative relationship between the Zimbabwean dictator and a white psychiatrist treating him for depression at State House in Harare in 2001. Last October, the play had an initial run in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s New Work Festival. It opens in London April 11 for 10 days at the Soho theatre. Mugabe himself may have already taken a keen interest in the work. When the play opened in Stratford, the actor who plays Mugabe, Joseph Mydell, says two men looking “like two bad actors in a bad James Bond film” showed up complete with notebooks. They appeared to be Zimbabwean officials who exchanged knowing glances with a Zimbabwean musician working on the production. “Maybe by this time (Mugabe) might have a copy of the play,” Mydell suggests in the London Theatre Guide. “I don’t think that’s far-fetched.” If he has a copy, even Mugabe might pause for thought. Playwright Fraser Grace, a Briton who has never been to Zimbabwe, has avoided what might have been the easy route: creating a monster figure of the man who ranks, at least in the West, among Africa’s most notorious despots. His Mugabe is a more complex figure.
“It is not necessarily a flattering portrayal that Fraser Grace has written, but it by no means just demonises him,” says Mydell. “You don’t leave the play without becoming aware of Mugabe’s position, how he got there and what he has had to fight against,” Mydell adds. “But you deplore how he maintains that position and his abuse of power … a kind of Frankenstein creation of a man who is both powerful and weak in the face of demons that are haunting him. I have a wonderful Dr. Frankenstein.”
The play is directed by South African-born Antony Sher, who says he finds Mugabe gripping – “more mesmeric the worse he behaves.” The psychiatrist, Rajko Peric, is played by David Rintoul, and the two other characters are Grace Mugabe (Noma Dumezweni) and a bodyguard played by Christopher Obi. – “Breakfast with Mugabe,” Soho Theatre April 11-22. Box Office: 0870-4296883. www.rsc.org.uk/london
BY A CORRESPONDENT
LONDON - Next week Robert Mugabe makes his debut in London's West End. Not, of course, with the limos, the expensive hotels, the protestors, and the wife buying up designer outfits in Harrods. That's all over since the travel ban.