We chatted to the writer and performer about Mugabe, My Dad & Me, which is currently playing at the York Theatre Royal.

Hi Tonderai, could you tell me more about Mugabe, My Dad and Me? Mugabe My Dad and Me is an exploration of the bonds of kinship between fathers and sons on a personal familial level and how this is linked to politics and national identity. It is about the reality of how we live now, how disjointed we have become. It’s not as serious as it sounds, it is a bit wry and humorous.

How did the idea for the play come about? Mugabe was deposed by a military coup in 2017. It was a real occasion for change full of hope. Unprecedented in the history of Zimbabwe, a call back to our independence 3
decades prior. I was quite triggered by it. Living in London wishing I was home. It reminded me of missing my father’s burial and it all kicked off emotionally. I wrote into that pain, and my memories guided me through. Most migrants get stuck in our memories.

How did it feel to be exploring a personality such as Robert Mugabe? Challenging, demanding, and utterly frightening. What a deeply fascinating man he was. Outside of Shakespeare I have never encountered a character of such breath and emotional grandeur. It’s been very engaging!

What do you hope that audiences will take away from Mugabe, My Dad and Me? That love carries on in different forms. That we are never alone even when we are away from “home.” That we have to remember the past, live with it, reckon with it but ultimately transcend it so new legacies can emerge.

How does it feel to be working along with the English Touring Theatre? I am thrilled. As another actor friend recently said to me “they know what they are doing.” The team there has been so brilliant at helping the play to be as good as it can get. Artistically they could not have been nicer.

How does it feel to be bringing the show to the stage? You know it really is an honour. I’m thrilled to be representing such a personal story which I know is universal. I’m truly lucky to return from the pandemic hiatus to a play which is intimate, and to have Millicent Chapanda playing live on stage next to me is hugely
emotional and rewarding. I’m thrilled. Come see it!

By Emma Clarendon

Mugabe, My Dad & Me continues to play at the York Theatre Royal until the 18th September.