I am Robert Mugabe
This article is from 2008.
Al Carretta is so fascinated by Robert Mugabe he’s writen two shows about the Zimbabwean despot, as Anna Millar discovers
The late, great George Bernard Shaw wrote: ‘We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.’ Never was a truer word spoken than in reference to Robert Mugabe. He has dominated Zimbabwean politics since 1980 when he became head of government, his iron rule becoming as infamous as his contentious (lack of) policy.
This year, his life and legacy is re-imagined in two very different interpretations, both by Exit Theatre Company, and inspired by the fact that ten years after he first hit the headlines, little appears to have changed.
‘The ideas for both shows have been at the back of my head since 1998, when as a media student I was studying the BBC’s reporting of the situation in Zimbabwe,’ says writer, director and lead actor of I am Robert Mugabe and Requiem for Robert Mugabe, Al Carretta. ‘Seeing it all happen again ten years later, with so little having been done in between, it just felt like a very pertinent part of history to explore.’ I am Robert Mugabe, examines the downfall of Zimbabwe and Mugabe’s trial at the International Criminal Court, showcased through the lives of the innocent farmers persecuted by the state. ‘Although it doesn’t actually show Mugabe in the play, we really wanted to show the backdrop he was creating,’ says Carretta.
Brechtian style musical, Requiem for Robert Mugabe is altogether more satirical, he says, inspired as it is by the backstory of Superman. ‘Like Superman, we are telling the story that Mugabe landed in a fireball in Africa in 1924 and then we follow that idea through, looking at his life as a child to the present day. It just seemed to work: Mugabe has been this cartoon dictator in Africa for many years and his Zanu PF campaign catchphrase “Get Behind the Fist” has a comic book feel to it and we saw we could do something interesting with that.
‘We don’t want to stand up there every night and make this political statement but we do want to produce topical and relevant shows.’
I Am Robert Mugabe, The Space @ Jury’s Inn, 18-23 Aug, 10.45am; Requiem for Robert Mugabe, The Space @ The Thistle, 18-23 Aug, 2.10pm.