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  • Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) 2011 - Index of articles, videos and images

  • "It's always life affirming to see your story presented" - Interview with director Sarah Norman
    Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
    May 11, 2011

    Read Inside/Out with Sarah Norman

    View audio file details

    Sarah NormanDirector, actress and blogger Sara Norman was one of the founding members of the successful Zimbabwean theatre company Over the Edge. She currently lives between Zimbabwe, where she directed Harare Files for the Harare International Festival of the Arts; and Kenya where she is working on a project to direct The Merry Wives of Windsor by Shakespeare. Sara also manages Bookish a book review blog and another on life in Kenya called Nairobi Notebook.

    What drew you to the stories in Harare Files?
    Well I found the booklet in someone's bathroom, randomly. When I read one of them I thought ‘this would make a great play'. It was interesting, it was compelling, it was dramatic inherently and it was something that people don't know a great deal about. One thing I was thinking when I first found the stories was that it would be brilliant to do it in the high density areas where those people come from, because I don't think they see their stories represented very much at all. It's always life affirming to see your story presented. Listen

    What would you like audiences of the play to take away from it?

    I think everybody is going to take away from it what they will. What we tried to do is present the stories as clearly as we could and as honestly as we could. We spent ages and ages trying to remember the ladies' exact grammar, trying to present it exactly as it was. What I would hope they take away is the valour of these people. One thing that we say in the write up, even though it's quite a serious subject, is that it's about people's achievement in the face of truly incredible odds. So it's about personal victory. Listen

    In addition to directing, you also maintain a book review blog called Bookish. How do you select books for your reading list?
    I let myself get led quite naturally. I read mostly fiction, that's the only thing. But I'll read contemporary, classics. I have a wide-ranging taste. I'm reading more African writers recently. Partly because when I started the blog I started getting to know other peoples blogs. One blog I read a lot is called ImageNations is run by a gentleman in Ghana, and he has such an interesting set of African authors that he's inspired me. That's one thing I enjoy about my blog, that it's led me to other books and other authors. Now I live in Nairobi, I have a lot of free time so I've started another blog called Nairobi Notebook, about life in Nairobi and I think one thing I'm going to start now, because I've been quite inspired by all the clothes of HIFA, I'm going to start a Nairobi Looks section on the blog, where I'm going to take a picture of the best outfit I see every week and put it up. Listen

    Do you have any favourite books that you've read for the blog?
    Last year I was featured on someone else's blog about my reading list for 2010. I put one of my favourites as The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, which I really recommend. Now there's an interesting book about national collapse. Very interesting. And you sort of see writ large our situation. I found that really surprising, it was an educational book for me. You just admire his courage. Do you know, I believe it had to get published when it did because the lady who was hiding half the book was kept awake for a hundred and twenty hours, so she broke and told them where the book was. Then she killed herself because she felt so guilty. The book names names, it was very brave to write. The other book I enjoyed last year was I Capture The Castle, which was completely different. It's about an Englishwoman in the 1960s but it's a charming tale about English adolescence. A beautifully written story. Listen

    Why did you choose theatre as a career?
    I'm not sure. I think it was something that always interested me ever since I was a child. Reps used to have, and still does have a really strong children's theatre. At Repteens I met a lot of good friends, and we formed a theatre company, which was one of the first multiracial theatre companies in Zimbabwe. We were together for a long time. We did a lot of different plays, the classics, we did our own writing, we did all sorts and I think that was a very joyful experience in a lot of ways. All the best and brightest people I knew were in the theatre. Then I was fortunate to get a scholarship to drama school so that led me even further on that path.

    What is your dream project and who are your dream actors to work with?
    I've been commissioned by Shakespeare's Globe to make a Swahili Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor, which I think is going to be really interesting. It's a little bit like the Harare files project. I'm working with the urban poor. Not because I was like: "let me work with the urban poor!" but because when I looked around Nairobi that seemed to be where a lot of the theatrical energy was, and particularly the musical energy. I think that's going to be a fun project. The Merry Wives of Windsor is a story about a fat man from the city who comes down to the village and gets all the women to fall in love with him. The whole play is about these rural women playing tricks on him and how he learns in the end, in a fun way, it's a comedy, to have respect for women and respect for rural people.

    Visit the fact sheet

    Audio File

    • How Harare Files started
      Language: English
      Duration: 36sec
      Date: May 11, 2011
      File Type: MP3
      Size: 571KB

    • Take home message
      Language: English
      Duration: 34sec
      Date: May 11, 2011
      File Type: MP3
      Size: 545KB

    • Blogging, books and writing
      Language: English
      Duration: 51sec
      Date: May 11, 2011
      File Type: MP3
      Size: 810KB

    • Favourite books
      Language: English
      Duration: 55sec
      Date: May 11, 2011
      File Type: MP3
      Size: 867KB

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