‘Lovers In Time’ Director Pens Open Letter To The Herald Editor

The director of Lovers In Time, a play that caused a bit of a stir on the opening day of HIFA, Agnieszka Piotrowska has penned an open letter to the editor of the government rag, The Herald, after an article was published attacking the play.

Lovers In Time is running at HIFA 2014

Lovers In Time is running at HIFA 2014

The article, quoted a producer who took exception to the Blessing Hungwe-penned play and its take on the Mbuya Nehanda-Sekuru Kaguvi story.

We publish it here unredacted.


To the Editor of the Herald

Dear Sir

I hope this email finds you well.  I would like to respond to the extraordinarily unfortunate article you published about the above production in yesterday’s paper.  There were a number of inaccuracies in the piece, some as basic as the spelling of my name, or calling me a theatre and film enthusiast rather than an accomplished and award winning professional but that aside some points need to be made:

1. The play opened last night and so it was surely deeply unfair and unprofessional to publish articles before anybody actually saw it.
2.  It has been approved by the Censorship Board which, as I understand it, includes highly respected people in Zimbabwean society.
3. It would make sense that those seeking the ban first watch the play, rather than speculate from a short synopsis. The message in the play is more about reconciliation and healing the rift between the races, playing around the idea of “what if the white people had listened to Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi – where would we be today as a nation?”
4. Rather than being insensitive, therefore, the play attempts to share in comedic form what could be possible – and, in fact, goes to great lengths to underscore what the two liberation icons stood for. Ironically some white people who have watched the rehearsals do not even like it because they say it portrays them in bad light!
5.As my name indicates, Agnieszka Piotrowska, I am in fact Polish.  Our nation too knows more than most the pain and suffering a people can go through. I am indeed both a highly acclaimed academic in my own right, and an award winning filmmaker – a most basic google search would have revealed it.
6.  Blessing Hungwe and myself developed the play together but it would not have been produced if not for the funding coming from my university, the University of Bedfordshire, in the UK.  I was not ‘picked’ to be the director – I initiated the whole project as the producer, with the support of HIFA and, invaluably, the Zimbabwean Theatre Association.
7. Finally, the producers, directors, cast and crew of Lovers in Time have the utmost respect for the spirit mediums and other liberation icons that fought for the freedom of this country. All recall that the ultimate goal was for the people of Zimbabwe to live together in harmony regardless of race, ethnicity, religious or other exclusionary principle. There was no intention whatsoever to lampoon Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi, as those who will watch the play will see. All just agreed that the story could be told in a humorous way, as opposed to a staid narrative that would affect the transmission of the message.
8. The play draws from the African tradition of story telling but also indeed from the Western surrealist theatre with Beckett and Ionesco as well as the Brechtian notion of revealing the workings of the theatre thus empowering the spectator.
9.  There are many examples in Western popular culture, both theatre and cinema, of looking at history through a comedic angel for example in the Forrest Gump or any of the classic Monty Python comedy.

Agnieska Piotrovska and Joe Njagu record a film related to the play

Agnieska Piotrovska and Joe Njagu record a film related to the play

We urge anyone interested in racial harmony to watch Lovers in Time before condemning what they have not seen and thus creating an atmosphere of fear which is unhelpful in creating any meaningful dialogue. We are grateful to HIFA for creating a space in which such a dialogue can begin to take place and new collaborations can flourish.

We look forward to seeing you at the Standard Theatre on 1st and 4th may at 3.40pm.

Best wishes

On behalf of the Lovers in Time company

Dr. Agnieszka Piotrowska
Reader in Film Practice and Theory
Course Leader MA/MSc Digital Film
University of Bedfordshire
Luton, LU1 3JU, UK