Tonderai Munyevu is an actor, writer and director for stage, screen and radio, he is the co-artistic director of Two Gents Productions. His writing includes Mugabe, My Dad and Me (York Theatre Royal/ETT/Audible), The Moors (Tara Arts Theatre/ Two Gents Productions), Harare Files; How 700,000 People Lost Their Homes (written with Sarah Norman), Zhe [noun] Undefined (written with Antonia Kemi Coker and Chuck Mike) at Soho Theatre; the short radio play A Tranquil Mind (BBC Radio 4) and various prose pieces including The Visiting Hours; A Dispatch From Zimbabwe (Johannesburg Book of Reviews), Bullets (Team Angelica) and On James Baldwin (Queer Bible.) He is in development of several projects across stage and screen. He has been shortlisted for The Alfred Fagon Award 2019, is part of the HighTide Writers Group, a member of the Stockroom Writersroom (formerly Out of Joint) and a recipient of The Peggy Ramsay Foundation Grant for his latest play Black Farce.
Five actors stand on a stage. They have a story to tell. The audience expects it from them. But this time round, this simple and seemingly everlasting may just need to be broken.
This play will be a very modern drama that fictionalises the events of the merchant ship Red Dragon as it sails to Sierra Leone in 1607. The very first performance of Hamlet outside of the UK and during Shakespeare’s own lifetime. On one hand the white sailors approach Africa with clear intentions of enriching themselves and on the other, the black African people, being approached and colonised in both material and cultural ways.
The play seeks an urgent “revising” of the narrative of Red Dragon myth for what it tells us about perspectives of our cultural histories. For the most part the people who are attracted to the Red Dragon as either a historical event or useful mythos want to see it as evidence of Shakespeare’s inevitable universality, that is to say he speaks for everyone and has always done so–his plays are already being performed globally while he was still alive etc etc. This hints at the idea that Shakespeare is indigenous everywhere. I am interested in the challenge of this with the truth of the material colonial histories with which this International indigenousness is imbricated. Into this I would also like to explore the text of Hamlet itself. This would be through the text itself on board the ship, exploring the immediacy of that text meant to its initial audience before gaining iconic status. We also explore earlier pronunciations of the text and modes of performance. Beyond the text itself, I am to dramatise how “culture” perpetuates class and racial inequity. I want to tackle race head on by having a company of only black actors —playing with a range of tools including white face, spoken word, puppetry, song and movement.. This would help us avoid actually subjugating black actors in how we present the stories.