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Robert Mugabe had same experiences as Nelson Mandela, says
Blandy, AFP and Telegraph
September 16, 2013
View this article
on The Telegraph website
Fraser Grace, whose play Breakfast with Mugabe is running off-Broadway
in New York until October, has claimed that the Zimbabwe leader
does not always get an accurate portrayal.
Mugabe was recently elected to serve a seventh term amid allegations
of massive vote rigging and this week announced a new cabinet
made up of hardliners from his Zanu-PF party. Grace's play delves
into the mind of one of the world's most vilified leaders, the 89-year-old
Mugabe who has been in power for 33 years.
In Grace's Breakfast
with Mugabe is seen a depressed patient, pursued by the spirits
of a dead comrade. Grace, who directs the Writing Drama course at
Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, said: "When Mugabe was
in the news, he was portrayed entirely as a monster. And my starting
position was that monsters are made, not born. There is little doubt
some of the ways he behaves are monstrous, but interestingly he
had many of the same experiences as Nelson Mandela: liberation,
prison, both suffered terrible humiliations and oppression under
South Africa's first black president, is credited with uniting his
country after apartheid rule.
The play has
only four characters, Mugabe and his wife Grace, bodyguard Gabriel
and white Zimbabwean psychiatrist Andrew Peric, all of them trying
to gain the upper hand.
by actor Ezra Barnes, first runs into the formidable Grace Mugabe,
largely known as the secretary-turned-mistress who married Mugabe
shortly after his first wife died and who lives a lavish lifestyle
that has earned her the nickname "The First Shopper" at
warm and menacing, Grace, played by actress Rosalyn Coleman, goads
Peric as he waits for her husband, assuring her his intentions in
treating the president are pure.
in Zimbabwe do you think is pure?" she scoffs. "Do what
you are told or you will not be treating your patient for long."
Mugabe, in a
hauntingly accurate portrayal by Michael Rogers, sought help from
the psychiatrist, yet he fights against being vulnerable to a white
man, and their interactions are tense, electric and emotional.
As the psychiatrist
probes Mugabe about the ghost - known as a ngozi - haunting him,
the president hits out angrily with his trademark sharp tongue about
Peric's white ancestors robbing Africans of their land and their
Peric, who has
a keen understanding of Shona culture, is described by actor Barnes
as "post-racial" and tries to defend himself. Like many
whites whose forefathers moved to the continent, he considers himself
bring up Mugabe's possible demons: his betrayal of his first wife,
his abandonment by his father as a boy and the death of his own
child during his 11 years of imprisonment by Ian Smith's white minority
The leader of
then-Rhodesia would not allow Mugabe leave to attend the funeral
of his four-year-old son.
The play takes
a thought-provoking look into the nature of political power, where
losing it can mean losing everything.
"I am scared
of the future," the first lady admits at one point.
and I stayed with these people one time in Romania, the Ceausescus...
look at what happened to them," in reference to that country's
brutal leader Nicolae, shot by firing squad along with his wife
threat of danger for Peric is also always there.
As a result
of Mugabe's controversial land reforms, which saw hundreds of white
farmers lose their land, some killed or chased off in violent rampages,
so-called war veterans have camped on his tobacco farm.
for Peric, his association with Mugabe has a chilling end for him
and his family in the play, which has been praised for its Shakespearean
The play was
first produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon
and then made it to the West End and will now run in New York until
astonishing to find the show coming out just as another election
has gone by. Things in many ways have gone backwards," said
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