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Theatre and/as insurrection in Zimbabwe

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The article investigates how political protest theatre in Zimbabwe reflected upon and negotiated a dynamic and complex political contest. The investigation is situated in the period 2000–2008 and Daniel Maphosa's Decades of Terror is cited as a typical example. The recognition that protest political theatre is usually confronted with complex and competing interests relating to ideological persuasions, aesthetic quality and potential impact is of paramount importance. Maphosa's play was largely and explicitly critical of the state, and its message resonated with the aspirations of the middle class, civil society and other 'progressive' forces. However, the play remained critical and cognizant of the contradictions and 'sins' of the progressive forces. Aesthetically, the playwright deployed both profound and engaging dramatic forms as well as explicit expressive forms. Overall three observations are made. First, the success of political protest theatre depends on the ability skilfully to negotiate competing aesthetic and ideological elements. Second, in pursuit of the ideological and aesthetic function of political protest theatre in the period under investigation, it seems advisable to be wary of generalizing tendencies. Third, Decades of Terror's apparent success as a subversive construction largely derives from its resonance with the aspirations of other subversive movements and an apparent balance between political overtness and aesthetic subtlety.

Keywords: Daniel Maphosa; Decades of Terror; Zimbabwe; aesthetics; insurrection; political protest theatre

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/stap.32.1.29_1

Publication date: February 2, 2012

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  • Studies in Theatre and Performance is a peer-reviewed journal which fosters a progressive forum to explore the nuances of theatre practice. The journal provides a critical scope to include other related disciplines in its scrutiny of the stage, exploring the interplay between performance, audience and dramatic practice.
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