By Bruce Ndlovu
When one talks of sex on stage, most Zimbabweans would expect the mention of Bev and Zoey, those two queens of raunchy dance, to follow.
Before the strippers that seduce and titillate men on stages in bars and clubs around the country nowadays, Bev and Zoey were the undisputed queens of raunchy in the country.
At first they were vilified, cursed as an illustration of showbiz gone wrong and a country fast losing its moral fabric. Years after they emerged and despite their waning popularity, Bev and Zoey are still held up as examples of how far the boundaries of creativity, if what they were doing can be called artistic in any way, can be pushed.
But in time they became accepted, young girls did not run around doing bottle dances and the nation’s moral fabric proved that it was cut from tougher material than some might have thought. It is doubtful whether that duo can ever again pull a stunt that would surprise the nation.
However, if the holder of the Nama Best Radio Journalist gong and the theatre director and the nominee in the Best Director Category combined to bring what has been touted as Zimbabwe’s first ever R-rated theatre production, it might grab the attention of some.
A no Under-18 certification in local theatre is unheard of and almost guarantees explicit content that would unsettle even the most experienced of theatre audiences. This is what versatile entertainer Babongile Sikhonjwa and Amakhosi’s Director of Theatre Productions, Thulani Mbambo are promising when their new production, Behind Closed Doors premières.
The show has already sent tongues wagging and Sikhonjwa, who jokingly refers to it as porn, believes that its shock value will have people flocking through Bulawayo Theatre’s doors on 6 June.
“This will be the first no Under-18 script in the country. I read the script and I felt that this was something that I would be interested in. This is something new, something different and I felt that this was something that would shake things up and make a difference.
“I think the fact that my name is on the poster will entice a lot of people. The fact that the play makes it clear that it’s strictly no under 18 will also fascinate people into coming and seeing what we actually will get up to on stage. People are interested in just how far we take it. Will we actually have sex on stage? I think that it’s something that curious theatre lovers should come and witness themselves,” he told Sunday Life.
Sikhonjwa promised that the production will have steamy scenes that are usually reserved for movie screens.
“A lot of people have said it will be porn on stage. It’s very explicit. We have about three sex scenes throughout the play and it’s all very graphic, it will shock a lot of people. This is not your ordinary kind of theatre,” he said.
However, he noted that all those shocking scenes had a purpose in the context of the entire film.
“Despite the fact that it’s obviously very explicit, it does not mean that the sex scenes are just gratuitous. It’s not done just for the sake of it but there’s a point that we’re trying to drive across and for it to make sense we will have to go that route,” he said.
The production’s creator, Mbambo said he had decided to cast the effervescent Sikhonjwa because the play’s main protagonist had similar character traits to the former broadcaster.
“I had this idea with me from last year but I had not done much with it. Funny enough, it was while we were on our way from the Nama awards that Babongile and I had a discussion and we decided that this was an idea worth pursuing.
“I felt like it was a character that was tailor made for Babongile. The character of the person in the play is very similar to his own so it worked out perfectly. This is a play that needed people with guts. There are not a lot of people in theatre with those kind of guts but fortunately Babongile is one of the few who do,” he said.
Mbambo said the production was his own attempt to get people talking about subjects that were thought of as taboo.
“One thing that we cannot deny is that the divorce rate is currently very high. A lot of marriages are failing because of things that we do but we don’t want to talk about. There’re things that we do in our bedrooms but we’re afraid to reveal to the world.
“We don’t have grandmothers and uncles that can sit couples down and solve marital problems anymore and so we have taken it upon ourselves to bring these issues to light so that they can be open discussion about them,” he said.
Mbambo said he was not worried about any potential backlash that might come after the play’s debut.
“I think as theatre practitioners we need to expose ourselves. We should come out in the open and get scrutinised. So it’s fine if people talk after this production. That’s what should happen anyway. We want people’s lives to come out in the open and after that we can start journeying towards the truth,” he said. Sunday News