Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

17/10/2017 - 21/10/2017

Production Details

From 17 to 21 October, Award-winning Zimbabwean playwright, Stanley Makuwe, brings his bare-knuckled, hard-hitting drama to the Basement. Makuwe’s latest play, Finding Temeraire is a grim look into unravelling of human relationships against the backdrop of a small mining town in Zimbabwe.

Makuwe is one of New Zealand’s quietly brilliant successes. Quite unassuming and modest, the forty-five year-old playwright has a swathe of awards to his name including:

  • Zimbabwe’s 2016 National Art Merits Award for Outstanding production and Outstanding director;
  • the 2011 BBC International Playwriting competition and
  • the 2005 BBC African short story writing competition.

His work has also been shortlisted for Playmarket’s Adam Award, a testament to his increasingly popularity both internationally but also here at home. But Stanley has more to say.

Finding Temeraire features Zimbabwean actor, Tawanda Manyimo, (known for major roles in films such as Ghost in the Shell, The Rover and Meg) and Sandra Zvenyika (In Transit). Although distinctive in location, voice and tone, Makuwe is excited about sharing this work with audiences here in New Zealand, a place he has called home for the past 15 years.

Finding Temeraire premiered to critical acclaim at the 2017 Harare International Festival of the Arts and was directed by British director and filmmaker, Agnieszka Piotrowska, followed by a season at Mangere Arts Centre, directed by Kiwi director and actress, Irasa Siave.

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Avenue, Auckland CBD
17 to 21 October 2017
$15 – $25

Theatre ,

1 hr

Stirring, confronting, challenging ...

Review by Nik Smythe 18th Oct 2017

The stage is black. A white wooden cross hangs from a chain upstage centre and some sort of confetti is scattered over the raised platform. Two people enter through the rear curtain, causing the cross to sway a little, and begin the play with a song about Temeraire and Primrose.

The man begins swatting the ground, killing cockroaches, as the woman arrives having taken the long slow bus ride to Mashava, this god-forsaken abandoned African ghost town. She peppers the man with questions about where everyone has gone, and why he’s still here. Initially agitated by her pestering, his mood shifts considerably when he eventually recognises her.

Sandra Zvenyika is Primrose, one of the working women from back in the day when it was a thriving gold mining village. Her forthright presence is quite intense, her humour cheeky and dark. Engaging playfully with this man at first, it becomes clear in time that her real agenda is not a friendly one.

Tawanda Manyimo is Temeraire, once the local plumber when times were good, now simply caretaker of the desolate, decaying town. Also intense, he’s less inclined to crack a joke than Primrose although enjoys their fonder memories as they reminisce. It would seem he chose to remain behind, when the town cleared out, as a kind of self-administered penance. 

Stanley Makuwe’s poetic script and austere direction evokes a rich imagery as their shared tale unfolds. Not having read any promotional copy beforehand, which exposes narrative points not revealed so clearly in the play itself, the drama unfolds for me in an intriguingly mercurial, perhaps Pinteresque way.

Besides the fundamental moral inquiry, we’re also left with existential questions to ponder. Particularly, is this really happening, or is one or the other experiencing a reverie, or are they both ghosts meeting in purgatory, or …? The latter would explain an otherwise confusing element: Primrose has been away twenty years, so she and Temeraire would surely be well into middle age, whereas Zvenyika and Manyimo seem more like the ages they would have been before she left. 

Other blurbs I’ve read subsequently include descriptions like “bare-knuckled, hard hitting”. They wouldn’t be my choice of adjectives as to me it implies a degree of overt violence not really seen in the work. Stirring, confronting and challenging, certainly. Also confusing, in a way that leaves us to debate whether it’s a flaw or an intentional element.  


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