Over the Edge (Zimbabwe)

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Over The Edge

Over the Edge (OTE for short) is a Zimbabwean multi-racial Theatrical company. It is one of Zimbabwe's most prolific and successful independent theatre companies. They have won both local and international acclaim, as well as numerous awards.

They are best known for the imaginative re-inventions of Shakespeare and their original African works. They have had a long relationship with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and have close links to Reps Theatre.

Early history[edit]

Over the Edge first performed on November 1994 at the Avondale Summer Arts Festival in Harare. The members had been friends for years, many having been in Repteens, and decided to put on a production. The group was praised for its talent and enthusiasm but it was especially noted for its racial diversity. Although racial diversity had been standard practise in Zimbabwe Theatres and Theatrical companies since the 1960s, the majority of performers were inevitably white. Over the Edge, on the other hand, had more or less equal ratios of black, white and "coloured" members.

The Group was quickly raising eyebrows, not only for its ethnic make-up, but also for its extreme, "off-the-wall" comedy performances. The group quickly gained recognition and was soon playing to packed houses at the Reps Theatre and the 7 Arts Theatre.

Over the next few years, the group performed numerous "reimaginations" of Shakespeare, Arthur Miller and Joe Orten. These adaptations were often set in Zimbabwe (or in an imagined Southern African country, similar to Zimbabwe) and had many satirical references to Zimbabwe's political scene. The group also performed numerous original comic political satires, with the group's trademark extremism.

Overseas Productions[edit]

The group won international acclaim when its productions of Twelfth Night and Eternal Peace Asylum were performed at the 2000 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The group got standing ovations, glowing reviews and packed houses. The group won the "Spirit of The Fringe" award for Twelfth Night and Wiina Msamati was nominated for "Best Actor" in the Stage Awards for Acting Excellence, run by the London newspaper The Stage. The group went on to tour the USA in March 2001, playing at the American Repertory Theater in Boston and many other venues. The productions of Twelfth Night and Eternal Peace Asylum were well received by the American audiences.

In October 2000, three members of the group performed at the Amsterdam International Improvisation Festival. Their improvised production of Long Form gained an instant standing ovation.

Born African[edit]

Born African is, undeniably, Over the Edge's most successful production to date. Written by Kevin Hanssen, Wiina (Lucian) Msamati and Craig Peter, with additional material by Adam Neill. It was directed by Zane E. Lucas.

The show has many characters, each actor playing multiple parts, but it centres around the lives of three people living in Zimbabwe: a white lawyer, a coloured youth and a black servant. The production used minimal set and costume, with the donning of a single item of clothing being enough to change character. The three cast members all wore black face paint, in order to bring the characters to the same level.

The show's main strength was its portrayal of ordinary people in Zimbabwe, a view that is rarely seen in other countries. The show also portrayed lesser well known issues, such as black on black violence, mixed-race relationships and colonial hangovers. The show's central focus, on the other hand, was what it actually meant to "Be African". The show ends with the characters thinking of leaving Zimbabwe, but realising that they were "born African" and deciding to stay.

The play was first shown at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA), before it was reworked and shown at the 2001 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It was critically acclaimed and the cast were nominated for "Best Ensemble" in The Stage Awards.

Today[edit]

Over the Edge last produced a play in 2004, this being a reunion of the group. Today the group's members are spread far and wide. Notable among these are Lucian Msamati (also known as Wiina) who has been following a successful career in the UK, Sarah Norman has also done well in the UK, recently assistant directing at The Globe Theatre in London. Craig Peter and Zane E. Lucas went onto create a theatre development group called Theory X in Zimbabwe. Gavin Peter continues to teach, his passion, and is the Chairman of the Allied Arts Festival in Zimbabwe, a large performing arts festival for school students. Adam Neill continues with an acting career in Johannesburg, South Africa. Kevin Hanssen continues to live and work as an actor, director and teacher in Zimbabwe. He recently published a book on theatre production called 'Jump Theatre - How to make a play' (www.jumptheatre.com). Karin Alexander lives and works in Johannesburg and Chipo Chung continues to pursue a successful career as an actor and director in the UK and America.

Members[edit]

Gavin Peter : Wiina Lucian Msamati : Zane E. Lucas : Craig Peter : Kevin Hanssen : Karin Alexander : Adam Neil : Sarah Norman : Chipo Chung

Plays[edit]

  • Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1995)
  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller (1996)
  • Molière’s Learned Ladies (1997)
  • The Complete works of William Shakespeare (abridged) by the Reduced Shakespeare Company (1997)
  • An adapted version of the American play Sheer Madness (1999)
  • Three original plays, Completely Over the Edge (1998), Anti-Panto (1998) and Anti-Panto 0.5 (1999)
  • Eternal Peace Asylum, an original play by Wiina Msamati (1999–2000)
  • Loot by Joe Orton (2000)
  • Improvisation and theatre games
  • TV pilots: Over the Edge (1996) and Ah, foetsak! (2000)
  • Born African written by Craig Peter, Wiina Msamati, Kevin Hanssen and Zane E. Lucas (2001–2002)
  • Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare (2000,2001)
  • The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare (2002)

External links[edit]