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Corn Exchange - Born African

12th February 2004.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Life in a hot climate

Born African, at The Corn Exchange, on Thursday, February 12

Harare-based Over The Edge Theatre Company's Born African is a moving inspirational story of life in a divided, torn and bitter Zimbabwe. The story follows the lives of three disparate characters. The white lawyer Mathew Johnstone, (Adam Neill) the mixed race teenager Nigel (Craig Peter) and the black domestic worker Constance (Wiina Msamati.)

Each has an individual tale to tell, pointed with a mantra "this is my story, this is who I am", and for the next 75 minutes we were treated to a compelling unravelling of the meaning to being born African.

The cast wore black-faced minstrel-like make up which acted as a constant reminder that although they may be white, mixed or black they all remained African. They portrayed a variety of characters with a consummate ease and great skill, by changing their accents, wearing a hat or a sarong.

The set was changed by moving simple blocks to create chairs, desks and even a gravestone.

The threads of the story were intrinsically linked by each of the main characters as it moved between the past, the present and an uncertain future.

Following the death of his mother, Mathew becomes the head of the family and life begins to disintegrate.

Wiina Msamati gave a stunning, tear-jerking performance as the downcast, faithful black female servant who was forced to stand at the back of the church at her mistress's funeral. This was a true tour-de-force performance.

Rejected by her husband she brings up their troublesome teenager, Fungisayi, on her own and he eventually stabs a businessman at a nightclub with some surprising consequences - black on black violence.

There were some excellent, inventive moments from this talented cast. The scene when they became the carefree, innocent children, full of energy playing games was beautifully observed. Versatile Adam Neill was totally convincing in an array of female parts and Craig Peter was powerful as the wife-beating, mixed-race Nigel White.

Director, Zane E. Lucas has created a compelling drama that was complimented by Kevin Hansenn's haunting original music.

This was storytelling at its finest.