July 24, 2007
This Royal Shakespearean play was first performed in October 2005 and has been occasionally performed since.
The play was directed by Anthony Sher and written by Fraser Grace.
Being a person born and brought up in that particular country I am much concerned with what goes on there. When I watch what is going on there it is moving and frustrating even more so to the people who are there.
This is a far cry from the Zimbabwe that was welcomed into the world community in 1980. It was such a joyous moment in history marked by prominents like Bob Marley and Princes. With an economy that paralleled any in the world, the Zimbabwe dollar traded one to one with the pound, it was truly the jewel of Africa!
It is nothing less than shocking now what the situation is like. A world record highest inflation in the history of mankind. The exporting nation is now scrapping to get by.
What could have happened to affect this jewel of a nation and cast it in muddy waters. Most people point the finger at one man. Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe. Yes, you can build quite a case against his decisions over the last 10 years or so. It would be quite easy to portray Mugabe as the all out villain. Agreeably, no amount of debate could actually change the stat of affairs faced by the people actually living there.
But the play Breakfast With Mugabe takes a new twist. It brings out a complex character. The character of Mugabe has his point of view laid out in the play. Though you might not readily subscribe to his views they are all the same legitimate views and thus they present a challenge to the prudent person about making a decision on what is going on.
Western politics has adopted the stance of "us" and "them", "good" and "evil". Is the world that clearly cut out? Anyway history is written by the victors.
The play explores elements of Mugabe's "psyche" and the thoughts that haunt him and the undeniable presence of fear in the country. There are strokes of humor in the tense interviews with his psychiatrist who is given the daunting task of analyzing the president whilst being pressured by the first lady who has her own ulterior motives whilst maneuvering under the eagle eyes of the state secret service.
|Plot summary: Soho Theatre, London|
by Michael Billington, Saturday April 15, 2006
We are often told that political theater is one-sided, partial and unfair. But I recommend the skeptics to take a look at Fraser Grace's compelling 90-minute play presented as part of the RSC's New Work season. It leaves you in no doubt as to the paranoia and corruption of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe regime while also reminding you of the colonial context from which it emerged.
Seizing on a cryptic newspaper report, Grace shows Mugabe holed up in the sumptuous Harare State House in 2001 and being stalked by the malevolent spirit of a dead comrade. But, unlike Macbeth similarly haunted by Banquo, Mugabe is able to summon up a shrink to resolve his problem: in this case, the white, tobacco-farm owning Dr Peric who works in a Harare hospital. Acting as a mixture of psychiatrist and political interrogator, Peric helps to lay Mugabe's ghost; but at disastrous cost to himself, his family and his fellow landowners.
"You and Robert, so much alike," says Mugabe's chic second wife to the control-freakish Peric; and Grace's point is the Shakespearean one that racial arrogance and cruelty breed their own revenge. Grace reminds us of the years of white domination in the former Southern Rhodesia: he also shows Mugabe's bitter memory of being refused permission by Ian Smith, in the course of his 11-year detention, to bury his young son. At the same time, Grace vividly depicts Mugabe retreating into Ceausescu-like isolation, sanctioning appalling thuggery, and lapsing into demagogic electoral rhetoric.
There is a something a little too neat about the implied transference of Mugabe's "ngozi"- or evil spirit - from the patient to the doctor. And Antony Sher's production could afford to tone down the volume in moving from the Swan to the Soho. But Sher, who has played both Macbeth and Shylock, clearly understands the piece's Shakespearean dimensions. Joseph Mydell also invests Mugabe's autocratic self-delusion with an unexpected layer of irony as when he wryly announces: "I have been informed that I will not live for ever."
David Rintoul excellently brings out the colonial patronage that underlies Peric's pyschiatric professionalism. And there is sterling support from Noma Dumezweni as Mugabe's stylish but secretly terrified wife. But the power of the play lies in its ability to put Zimbabwe's current tragedy into a historical context and to remind us of the truth of Auden's observation that "those to whom evil is done do evil in return".