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Jasen Pempho brings A 1 000 miles of gripping satire

by Kelvin Chiringa

Zimbabwean based actor, Jasen Mphepo’s one-man play, A 1 000 miles which burst on the stage of the College of the Arts Theatrical School this past week, is an act of pure genius crafted into a satire that makes society laugh at its own short-comings.

The storyline is poised on one man who narrates his different ordeals and life situations, reflecting on his past in the realm of the dead at his own funeral.

In the act, Mphepo splits personalities and wears different voices in a stream of consciousness that begins from him noticing his wife wailing at his funeral and protesting his being buried in the rural areas.

The actor plays on social stereotypes to humorously reflect the gossiping nature of women and their daring aptitude to negating patriarchal authority.

Scenes of Zimbabwe’s rising sprawled black urban communities during the colonial era can be easily picked out in graphic language that exposes huddled communities packed like sardines by the system of apartheid.

Naughty boys at puberty-stage take turns to stare through peep holes at intimate couples sweating through the exhilarating pulses of passion.

The random raving drunk narrates how he finds himself cheating although he loves his wife.

Mphepo is able to change voices to suit his many characters, many of them men, at the same time twisting mood to create different levels of energy.

General songs are composed in the alleys of dingy beer halls to explode on the scene of Zimbabwe’s dark locations, the mainstream urban culture of African township societies.

It is here that the narrator reminisces on the times he and his brother lost a dog in a very violent encounter with another rival well-built dog, and here comedy reigns supreme trapped in graphic depictions of the typical dog-fight.

Intrigue and tragedy hold the story-line tight and gripping.

Mphepo juxtaposes loyalty with betrayal and drags them towards love and matrimony to invoke emotions cast in dark humour.

The stream of consciousness snakes into the tragic life of a young couple propped up in a rocky marriage marked by betrayal and strange affections.

Here, the young man is able to respond to the healing shot-to-his-arm of guidance and counselling that drags him off the demons of cheating along the path of matrimonial commitment.

Yet the worldly trappings of dark beauty throws him into the arms of yet another woman, met during a celebration of his coming out of rehab

The young flirtatious beautiful lady asks for an autograph on her breast, a temptation that would be the harbinger of the doom to which the young man is fated, a one time encounter that would ruin the man’s marriage once and for all.

All these are introspections into escapades, highs and lows that would lead to the persona’s death by accident.

The satire is both hilarious and at the same time tragic.

It evokes questions and feelings of guilt and makes one reflect at the twisted nature of life and the unpredictability of fate and sobers our minds.

A 1 000 miles saves its purpose as a didactic tragicomedy that reflects that after all, death is an extension of life, another different kind of experience that springs from the seeds of how we lived our life scenarios.

Mphepo’s has at best confounded the regimented mainstream thought of what theatre should be.