(story writing by Moduduetso Lecoge, directed by Moletedi Ntseme)
Arriving to a nicely set up stage, it gets really hard for you to stop paying attention. I arrived to a dark room with a full house audience and someone was behind a white backdrop, showing was only her silhouette. And then she came out to dramatize a tale. The room was quiet; her words seemed to bounce back and forth in my ears but with such clarity. The presentation was by a stern young woman with a very demanding voice even in parts where she spoke softly. The set up was put together quite right.
Speaking with absolute certainly I know there is a lot of people who would still reckon a monologous narrative would be the quickest way to fall asleep. I was one of those populations that thought of monologues as giant sleeping pills until I went to catch the play of one of the most significant women to the history of politics and regional development especially pertaining to our history. Now, how the story came about is when Moduduetso saw it pressing to tell a story of her grandmother who still stands as a legend at age 94 and being first woman to do a lot of things both for herself and for the country. A woman of many first tells a story of perseverance of a woman growing in a growing democratic state. The personal account of Dr. Chiepe is a touching one as she had many battles to fight as a woman, she had to fight with societal pressures and norm, and she had to fight already built stereotypes that often times hindered or slowed down the process of her progress academically and otherwise. A strong woman, she refused to back down and continued on with her journey. The main purpose of the story was to highlight mainly the Dr’s achievements and what contribution it had to Botswana and in some instances the SADC region as a whole, especially after being elected to parliament.
The director of the play Mr Ntseme did admit that the play was extremely challenging to put together especially for him as a student director taking this piece as the first direction outside of school projects. He also admits that he found perfection in little things that he hadn’t noticed until he was sat down as an audience. “The play ran pretty smoothly, more smoothly than I expected. Everything was a perfect match, from the lighting to the transitions behind the curtain. It made the story more real”. Working towards finishing this production must have been hard work; it honestly had such a great finish. I was actually surprised to learn that it was directed by a young man barely out of University. This says a great deal about the finesse of theater production in the country. And the fact that Dr Chiepe made the audience was what blew my hat right off the top. I was completely blown away.
A woman of many first has got to be one of the most attended shows out of the entire Maitisong Festival, and that being with good reason too. And that the play was a monologue that attracted such a great audience means that it broke the norm of “monologues are boring”. The actress was quite animated in her work, she was really into evoking some emotion out of all of us and she did matter of fact. Personally I took the piece as one of my favorites of its kind. I think that the production team actually deserves applause for dramatizing history in such an enjoyable manner; one which can attract all audiences from young to old.