Subversion of socialist theatre and the rise of post-realist theatre in Zimbabwe

This article takes a theatre historiography approach by scrutinising key developments in Zimbabwean theatre between 1980 and 1996. While theatre historiography often deals with critiquing source materials, theatre reconstruction and theatre iconography, in this article my emphasis is on historical periodisation, with a particular interest in intellectual and artistic change. At independence in 1980, the Ministry of Education and Culture sought to decolonise theatre by challenging the dominance of Western illusionistic theatre through sponsoring, advocating and creating an alternative theatre characterised by speech, mime, song and dance, with a socialist ideological leaning. However, from 1991 the cultural context of Zimbabwe shifted from socialism to neo-liberal policies. The officially admired socialist realist aesthetic began to decline, giving way to a new modernist theatre. This article accounts for the decline of socialist realist theatre through the lens of one of the elements of Willmar Sauter’s theatrical events theory – cultural context. The author argues that the new Zimbabwean cultural context that obtained after the adoption of the IMF/World Bank-backed Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) reversed the socialist gains of the first ten years after independence and affected socialist revolutionary theatre by altering the taste of the audience and reducing spending on social services like theatre. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]

Title: Subversion of socialist theatre and the rise of post-realist theatre in Zimbabwe
Author: Ravengai, Samuel
Year: 2015
Periodical: Critical Arts: A Journal of Media Studies (ISSN 1992-6049)
Volume: 29
Issue: 3
Pages: 276-292
Language: English
Geographic term: Zimbabwe
Subject: theatre
External link: https://doi.org/10.1080/02560046.2015.1059544
Abstract: This article takes a theatre historiography approach by scrutinising key developments in Zimbabwean theatre between 1980 and 1996. While theatre historiography often deals with critiquing source materials, theatre reconstruction and theatre iconography, in this article my emphasis is on historical periodisation, with a particular interest in intellectual and artistic change. At independence in 1980, the Ministry of Education and Culture sought to decolonise theatre by challenging the dominance of Western illusionistic theatre through sponsoring, advocating and creating an alternative theatre characterised by speech, mime, song and dance, with a socialist ideological leaning. However, from 1991 the cultural context of Zimbabwe shifted from socialism to neo-liberal policies. The officially admired socialist realist aesthetic began to decline, giving way to a new modernist theatre. This article accounts for the decline of socialist realist theatre through the lens of one of the elements of Willmar Sauter’s theatrical events theory – cultural context. The author argues that the new Zimbabwean cultural context that obtained after the adoption of the IMF/World Bank-backed Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) reversed the socialist gains of the first ten years after independence and affected socialist revolutionary theatre by altering the taste of the audience and reducing spending on social services like theatre. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]