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Factfile: Mufaro Makubika

Name: Mufaro Makubika

Born in Zimbabwe. Came to the UK aged 16 where he attended the Nottingham Bluecoat School.

Nottingham. St Ann’s to be precise. Often to be found serving glasses of Pinot Grigio and eavesdropping in CAST bar next to Nottingham Playhouse.

I sort of fell into it by accident discovering acting as a form of self-expression‘. Decided he wanted to pursue a career as an actor. Two years of poverty ensued while studying at drama school in London.

Moving towards Writing:
Began writing while at drama school but didn’t take it seriously. London became too expensive, returned to the cheapness of Nottingham and found himself with lots of lovely spare time to write. Then wrote 2 plays in 3 months in a bit of a ‘writing frenzy‘.

TWP and The Royal Court:
Didn’t know what to do with his writing. Then about a year ago, whilst working in CAST, he cheekily eavesdropped a conversation about the New Writing scene in Nottingham. Struck up a conversation about it at the bar and was introduced to TWP. Then decided to bung one of his plays in the post to The Royal Court Theatre in London, which has a loooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnggggggg and impressive history of finding and developing talented young writers. Was offered a place on the TWP young writer’s programme and then The Royal Court also got in touch. Mufaro says about the Royal Court and his experience of workshops and training there ‘there are so many different types of writer there. Young people with very different perspectives.

Influential Writers:
Harold Pinter – ‘For rhythm of language‘.
Joe Orton – ‘For subversion.’
Philip Ridley – ‘In terms of sheer literal imagination.
Sarah Kane – ‘I know everyone says her but I love her imagery.
Samuel Beckett – ‘Minimal use of words. Nothing more. Nothing less. He distils language to the point of purity‘.
Simon Stephens – ‘All his plays are about a physical or transitional journey. Movement.
Lorraine Hansbury – ‘Raisin in the Sun’ – One of the best plays ever!

Favourite play:
‘Piranha Heights’ by Philip Ridley
It’s just the sheer power of the work. Some plays you sit there and zone in and out. This is the only play where I was hooked from beginning to end. Just amazing.

About his current play:
Wallowing’ started with an image in my mind of a man in a room sitting in the dark. That’s all I had. He never answered so I began to develop his story further. Another character entered and became his wife. Brick by brick the play evolved. The character of Malcolm was very clear from the start. I explored other ideas and possible characters but it became very clear that this was a story about 2 characters. I just watched them. They were dealing with grief. There’s a point when she’s talked for 3 weeks and she’s done talking. And she wails because she has no other way. So if you’re Malcolm how do you react? When he doesn’t say anything the silence is even stronger. It’s going to be interesting how they stage a character who doesn’t speak in a reading! It’s a weird play.

Common Themes and Ideas:
Death. But in an interesting exploratory relational way rather than a morbid obsession. ‘Because it’s a question no one can answer or understand. All things come back to death. Most art is about death.

About the Act of Writing:
My pieces are quite melodramatic. I don’t really trust myself with dialogue, it’s something you work at for years to get good at. I write only what is necessary to convey the scene. In a scene I am trying to show something, for example the woman scrubbing the floor. Just watch her and see the story. I suppose it’s an actor’s approach! Sometimes theatre is so cerebral and gets caught up with the words. If you strip it to make it as bare as possible you free up the audience to really watch.

On Getting Stuck:
I read other people’s work. I tend to have a pile of plays around me as I write. Sometimes you need to get out of your one track mind and experience a different world so that you can look back at the world you’re trying to create with fresh eyes. Writing is weird as you’re writing people.

Influences from Africa:
I’ve thought about this. Mostly in terms of style and how the pieces work theatrically.‘ The style he reckons is more influenced by European and American styles which are less ‘big’ than African theatre. But his roots creep through. ‘My work is sometimes more forceful than delicate – it’s a struggle. The words are not really delicate, always a kind of forceful way of saying things. Emotions are reserved but then blow up. That’s an African thing maybe.

Advice to Aspiring Writers:
Write what you want. Don’t think about writing to suit anyone. Then sit down and write. Sometimes you’ve talked about it but the paper is still blank. So just do it, as much as possible, just keep going and you’ll learn and get better with time. You just have to get on with it.

Future Projects:
If I could be afforded a dream about something in the future…. it would be that someone, somewhere would be willing to put on my play somewhere, anywhere…

Other Thoughts:
Thanks to Esther Richardson without whose help this play would not exist.

Lots of exciting theatre people in London and East Midlands are interested in Mufaro’s work so watch this space….

Mufaro was talking to Beth Shouler

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