DURBAN University of Technology’s Drama Department will, this month, present The House of Hunger, a ground-breaking new stage adaptation of the award-winning novella of the same title by iconic Zimbabwean writer, Dambudzo Marechera.
The production is written and directed by Roel Twijnstra in collaboration with Jerry Pooe as musical director.
Dambudzo Marechera rose above his deeply troubled early life in Vhengere Township, Rusape, Zimbabwe, to become one of the most important creative voices of the Southern African diaspora over the past half century. His explosive novella, The House of Hunger, published in 1978, recalls his growing up in colonial Rhodesia.
Told in exquisitely crafted prose, the author touches his readers’ nerve ends through his harrowing evocation of life dominated by white settlers, while highlighting the disillusionment of a young black man, and the attendant individual suffering in the 1960s and 70s.
His raw, piercing writings secured Marechera his place in African literature as a stylistic innovator and rebel mouthpiece of the ghetto conditions that prevailed in his homeland during his childhood.
The author successfully navigates his rocky terrain with stabs of angry humour, adding to his creative compass, themes of madness, violence, despair and survival.
Signalling a new trend of incisive and visionary African writing, The House of Hunger was awarded the 1979 Guardian Fiction Prize.
In bringing Marechera’s most acclaimed work to the stage, Twijnstra says he and Pooe have tried to honour the celebrated writer’s capacity for voicing his own anger, turbulent dissent and rebellious social commentary against the far-flung injustice and cruelty he experienced during childhood, while capturing his great longing for individuality, freedom of expression and his overriding creative genius.
Speaking of Marechera and his work, Twijnstra hails the Zimbabwean author who died at the age of thirty-five as “a dislocated writer living in a shattered, repulsive environment of mindless violence, raw sex, filth and madness.
“The House of Hunger is one of the most important texts to emerge from Southern Africa in recent decades. While it is emotionally gripping and verbally pyrotechnic, its narrative is characterized by shifts in time and place and a blurring of fantasy and reality.Advertisement
“We have echoed this device in our stage adaptation by keeping the action non-specific with regards to the period and place.”
Twijnstra adds: “While it is emotionally gripping and verbally pyrotechnic, the narrative of The House of Hunger is characterized by shifts in time and place and a blurring of fantasy and reality.
“We have echoed this device in our stage adaptation by keeping the action non-specific with regards to the period and place.
“We have however fully embraced the elements of violence, exhibitionism and visual extravagance depicted in the original text. And to this end I have picked up on free-flowing examples of underground shows I have seen in cosmopolitan centres such as Berlin, New York, and Rotterdam.
“We have chosen to break the mould of traditional theatre productions, and to conjure the unexpected or disruptive impact of Marechera’s writing by staging the piece along the lines of an edgy, high camp fashion show with music, dance and drama melded into the mix, in which the performers ‘strut their stuff’ on a ramp, erected outside DUT’s Courtyard Theatre, while the audience stand by, looking in on the action being enacted before them.”
The House of Hunger is the latest in a series of dramatic adaptations of important African literature that Twijnstra and Pooe have produced for South African stages.
It will be presented outside the Courtyard Theatre on the Steve Biko campus of DUT in Mansfield Road from 12 to 16 May 2015.
It follows Twijnstra’s and Pooe’s 2011 adaptation of Zakes Mda’s novel, Madonna of Excelsior; a dramatization of Ben Okri’s Famished Road (produced in 2012); and last year’s staging of Peter Abrahams’ novel, Mine Boy.
“Our long term aim is to present African stories for an African audience. To this end, we plan to tour each production to other African countries, once they have been staged in South Africa.”
Roel Twijnstra is a theatre director, writer, and lecturer originally from the Netherlands but now based in South Africa. Jerry Pooe, director and writer, is Artistic Director of Wushwini Arts and Heritage Centre.
This article was originally published by Artslink.co.za