We chatted to Tonderai about the world premiere of Mugabe, My Dad and Me which has been released via Audible.

Hi Tonderai, could you explain a bit more about Mugabe, My Dad and Me is about? Mugabe, my dad and me is story about Zimbabwe told through three characters: my father, Mr Mugabe and Me. We say in the show that my father is the very man, Mugabe the “head of the “family” which is the nation of Zimbabwe and I am the diasporian who has to come to terms with bot of their legacies, which believe me, have not been at all easy to deal with.

How did the idea for the play come about? It’s almost like my father passed away and I instinctively knew that there was more to his dying that just me loosing my father. I was approaching my thirties and I think I knew that a
life such as his, had many elements to it and while he had many character defects I sensed there was something about his time and space that I needed to investigate. And that I needed to do it specifically. That and that I was very familiar with Mugabe’s public persona and had always been fascinated by its perverse englishness which seemed incongruous to his radical hatred of Britishness. That seemed a good tension with the fact that I had grown
to love London in particular as I grew up here. A perfect circle really.

How did it feel having to adapt it as an audio play as opposed to being able to perform it on
stage as intended?
It felt very intimate. It was the same team as for the stage show so I think we were able to
find a depth to the material that came from stripping off the razzmatazz of the stagecraft. We were very mindful of not overstaying our welcome as the ear is so intimate. I have to say the audio performance is my favourite performance I have ever given. Not that I have listened to it! I can’t bare my own voice. But the closeness and specificity of the memories I was conjuring up was ineffably beautiful. We recorded it during lockdown so I also happened to be alone as the team was remote save for the engineer and so I could just tell the story form
the heart and so I did my best.

Did you find it difficult to talk about your family history in this way? Absolutely. But I never tell them what I am working on! I also have a slight variation of how my name is spelt professionally so they can never google me! I must say I am compelled to write from truth so I cannot help myself. I am supremely inspired and influenced by Diana Athill, Joan Didion and Maya Angelou. One feels the work means something BECAUSE it’s
true. It does mean that I am very cagey about what I say at family gatherings though!

Why did you decide to tell this story? To know my father better. To make sense of his death. To make sense of my sexuality and to account for the broken bonds within my family. In retrospect, as esoteric as it may sound, it
was my uncle who died in the war of liberation who seemed to want to be recognised and I
think he called me forth to tell the story.

What can people expect when they listen in? A story of a family. A story of belonging and love. And a story about identity and how it shifts over time and space.

What do you hope that people will take away from Mugabe, My Dad and Me? I suppose forgiveness. In the end that’s essential in moving forward. If you can say you were wronged, but you conquered and found a special kind of resilience that means you can look at the future without restrictions and or anger. Freedom from the triggers and psychological barriers that strip you from the joy and power of being who you really are. All this and great
music from MILLICENT CHAPANDA on the mbira!

By Emma Clarendon

Mugabe, My Dad and Me is available to listen to via Audible UK