Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
Lady Tshawe’s first time as a director was a nerve-wrecking experience that left her in tears.
She, last week, directed her first play 6.55 at the Bulawayo Theatre. The play, which she wrote, tackles mental health issues and was shown in front of a packed house on Thursday night. The cast was an all female one with Sidumisile Mthethwa, Sithabile Ndubiwa, Nyarie S Nyika, Bonakele Agnes Ncube and Musawenkosi Sibanda.
After years of being in front of the crowd as an actress and winning a Bulawayo Art Award as Outstanding Actress last year, Lady Tshawe decided this year to be behind the stage to write and direct her play.
She said she was still in shock because of the number of people who came out to watch the play leaving her teary-eyed.
“Thursday August 15 still feels like a dream. Surreal! I was and still am overwhelmed by the attendance and reception of the play. I didn’t know what to expect, all I know is I had a story to tell and this time I would tell it behind the scenes.
“When I saw the theatre filling up, save for a few empty seats, I couldn’t contain my tears. People wanted to see what Lady Tshawe could create and I was humbled. I got more than what my mind could comprehend,” said Lady Tshawe.
The play according to Lady Tshawe was inspired by her grandfather.
“6.55 is a show that was inspired by the life of Reverend Mathias Elijah Damasane, my grandfather. Even though I as his granddaughter didn’t get to meet him, his life, as narrated to me, opened my eyes to mental health and prompted me to seek more understanding of it and its effects,” said Lady Tshawe.
She said with this play she hopes to bring mental health issues to the fore.
“With our African and traditional societies, 6.55 hopes to demystify some myths and assist the opening of our minds as Africans to learn, appreciate and live with mental health without stigmatisation,” said Lady Tshawe.
She said she put in a good two months to prepare on the production of the play.
“I gave myself about eight weeks to prepare for the production, which seemed long as most productions use about three to four weeks. But because it was a new baby I needed all the time to fit in auditions, rehearsals, showings and set design,” said Lady Tshawe.
In normal circumstances, Lady Tshawe said she would have immersed herself into the play as an actress, but this time around it was a different experience pushing the cast to do their best.
“The cast and production team on most days trained together before rehearsal started. I did this so that everyone felt the same pain, same exhaustion. Even though four ladies would take to the stage, the whole crew shared in that journey.
“Mornings were dedicated to choreography and fitness and Gomez had full control of that session with little input from myself. In the afternoon we worked on the script, experimenting with different styles and emotions so that we create genuine and relatable characters,” said Lady Tshawe.
During her time on stage, Lady Tshawe said playwrights such as Raisedon Baya, Memory Kumbota, Mgcini Nyoni and Saimon Mambazo Phiri either directed or influenced her.
Since she had little information about mental health issues Lady Tshawe said she did extensive research.
Looking into the future, Lady Tshawe said she was contemplating showing the play again in Bulawayo, before taking it around the country.
“We are working on getting the play to travel around the country and hopefully we can get it outside Zimbabwe. In the city itself we are hoping to bring it back as a lot of people want to see it,” said Lady Tshawe.