Lessing's life captured in new play

HARARE – Nobel prize-winning author, the late Doris Lessing’s life and thoughts will be re-lived in the play Guinea Fowl set for Friday until Sunday at the new Theatre in the Park in Harare Gardens.

Rooftop Promotions in collaboration with Theatre Nova brings you Guinea Fowl that first premiered in Norway in November 2013 and was co-produced by Rooftop Promotions’ Daves Guzha.

Guzha said the premiere follows his visit to Norway to foster new partnerships and add to the old existing ones. “This marks the return of productions at the new Theatre in The Park venue and an early Christmas present to all our fans and thespians who for long have endured the long wait for the new space.

“For theatre lovers we are having this trial run which will mark the return of Theatre in The Park and other collaborations with regional and international production houses.

“Already we have secured three more for the first half of 2016 calendar for our regional and international quota for next year.”

During the runs they will be two-day workshops by Simone Thiss with day one looking at acting through action-based on the system of Stanislavskijs method for physical actions and action analysis.

Day two will be puppetry through paper with Halle teaching participants how to use paper and other objects to explore the magic of puppet theatre.

The workshop is open to anyone who is interested.

The Daily News recently caught up with part of the play’s cast that comprises Thiis (actress and producer), Elisabeth Beanca Halvorsen (writer) and Ragni Halle (actress).

The trio arrived in the country from Europe on Monday and are ready to perform in Africa for the first time. They promised to give all their best.

Thiis said it means a lot for Theatre Nova to come to Zimbabwe with the play because that was where it started.

“In 2012 we went to Zimbabwe for research about Doris Lessing and we met Rooftop Promotions. We have had a great collaboration and it feels important to show this play to the people of Zimbabwe because I think it says something about your history.

“Doris Lessing grew up in Southern Rhodesia and her novels are very much inspired by her life there. We feel that this play is made for Zimbabwe and finally we have managed to come.”

Thiis also shared what the audience should expect “an introduction to basic puppetry techniques and acting techniques using various objects and text. We will improvise and have fun together as well — it will be hard work.

“The play can give you some thoughts about who Doris Lessing was and get an idea of her work (novels). It can also surprise the audience both in the style of playing, the combining of drama theatre and puppetry and it can hopefully give you a bit of a laugh and some thoughts around communism and imperialism in Southern Rhodesia. Theatre lovers will not get disappointed.

“There will also be some juicy stories built up in different scenes that are put together with animation and music of a Zimbabwean musician, Sarari.”

She said she found it a very big enrichment for the play that a Zimbabwean plays music in it.

Writer Halvorsen, a is a Norwegian playwright, translator and author of experimental non-fiction said it took her three years to research and write this play which was inspired by the life and work of Lessing.

While writing Guinea Fowl she also worked on a book about Doris Lessing that will be published in Norway in February 2016 (Doris Lessing. En litterær forfølgelse). Halvorsen lives in Oslo and Vienna. In 2010 she published a book about the Austrian Nobel Prize-winning author Elfriede Jelinek.

Halle a freelance puppeteer/actress acquired her education from HiO (University College of Oslo), Nordic Black Xpress acting school and internships with various puppet companies.

She has starred in performances with Norway’s National Touring Company, The Cat’s Puppet company and Teater Nova amongst others, and has also toured with her own performance Can paper breathe?

She is the host of Puppet Slam, a series of late-night puppet cabarets for adults.

Ragni has given several workshops in puppet manipulation both for adults and children.

In Guinea Fowl, Ragni plays Doris Lessing’s family members, novel characters, a journalist and a lover.

Thiis is a Norwegian actress and director. She was educated in Norway and Denmark. In 2002 she started Theatre Nova, a professional theatre company in Norway and has been the artistic leader since then.

Theatre Nova is a touring company and is cooperating with theatres from Norway, Italy, Poland, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Thiis has produced, directed and played in Theatre Nova’s 15 performances. In 2012 she got a prize for the best performance played at schools in Norway, and in 2014 she was nominated for best directing in Poland.

Meanwhile when Lessing died in 2013 at 94 she left 3 000 personal books which were donated to the Harare City Library on her instructions through Book Aid International.

Lessing was educated at the Dominican Convent High School, a Roman Catholic all-girls school in Salisbury (now Harare). She left school at the age of 14, and was self-educated from then on; she left home at 15 and worked as a nurse’s aide. She started reading material that her employer gave her on politics and sociology and began writing around this time.

Doris Lessing lived in Zimbabwe (which was then Southern Rhodesia) for 25 years, from 1924 to 1949. She returned in 1956, but was declared a prohibited migrant after speaking out about the regime.

She was allowed back into the country in 1982 and after 1988 she visited Zimbabwe and nurtured two initiatives by the Africa Book Development Organisation and the Africa Community Publishing and Development Trust to provide opportunities for reading and learning through libraries.

Lessing referred to the people of Zimbabwe “the most passionate readers anywhere in the World”.

In 2007, Lessing was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She received the prize at the age of 88 years 52 days, making her the oldest winner of the literature prize at the time of the award and the third-oldest Nobel laureate in any category (after Leonid Hurwicz and Raymond Davis Jr. She also was only the 11th woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature by the Swedish Academy in its 106-year history.

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