Reflecting on Zimbabwe | Unified Women

Unified Women artwork. Orange background with silhouettes of two young women standing outside holding hands.

Written 2,500 years ago by Aeschylus The Suppliant Women is one of the world’s oldest plays and yet speaks to us through the ages with startling resonance. Seven young women aged between 18-25 from Lambeth and Southwark travelled to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe this September working in response to Ramin Gray’s production, with the YV Taking Part team and director, Sasha Milavic Davies. Zimbabwean writer, Noma Damasane, aka. Lady Tshawe worked with the group to produce a piece of work which reflected the shared experiences across the two groups of women, regardless of their geography or local cultures.

We asked some of our group of women to document their “once-in-a-lifetime experience”, sharing their observations and best moments from their cultural exchange which started with one forgotten passport 😉

Monique takes it from here…

The hardest thing about travelling for me is packing, I can do it quickly but I’m never sure I’ve packed the right things. However, whether your top to bottoms ratio is right means nothing if one forgets to pack the most important item: the passport. Yes ladies and gentlemen I forgot my passport! My mother would be so ashamed.

We arrived in Bulawayo to be greeted by the warm sun of Zimbabwe, Josh of the Nhimbe Trust and two of our cast mates, Sta and Musa, with big smiles. 

After being welcomed by the lovely Noma (our writer) we were treated to an amazing performance Khaya Arts plus the coolest band I’ve ever seen, The Afro Queens. Don’t think that just because we were guests and had been travelling for a whole day we could just sit back and enjoy the show. No! We formed a circle and it was dance time. I’m proud to say I have a really good sense of rhythm and I can throw it down on any given night but the Zim Girls brought something completely different to the table. The way they and the performers of Khaya Arts move is incredible! I have to learn.


Anasthasia from our London group also talked about the huge welcome they received and the early experiences in Bulawayo and further afield… 

My official introduction to the Zimbabwean girls felt like a huge party where the UK girls and I were the guests of honour. We were greeted with such amazing performances, with the most energetic being an amazing stomp dance act by Khaya arts showing us the natural rhythm that the Zimbabweans had to offer. With the food being similar to the African food I had back in the UK, Zimbabwe started to feel a little more like home.

Cultural learning was a key part of this experience where I learnt about both new and old cultural traditions from the Zimbabwean girls, museums, art galleries and heritage sites. There was even a talk by Pathisa Nyathi, one of the most respected historians in Zimbabwe, about the spirituality of the Shona and Ndebele people as well as traditions surrounding marriage; a talk which almost felt like an exact mimic of Danaus speech to his daughters on the same topic. One line that really stood out for me from Pathisa’s speech was “As it is above, so is below”.  It summarises African spirituality and what made an African African; the conservation of the human race and life on earth. This powerful ancient mission of African people makes me want to understand more about my own culture and heritage before colonisation; to understand the rich history of my nation.

Looking back on how Sasha and Noma developed their work, Monique reflected on how it helped her find her own voice…

Last week we shared with each other our own personal stories, whether they were about us or women we knew; we bared parts of ourselves that we probably didn’t expect. To say it was emotional is an understatement. I feel privileged to have heard those stories and I trust these women with the sharing of mine.

Probably because of the gravity of such a moment, I didn’t think about how it relates to our project. Turns out Sasha and Noma intended to use some of our experiences in our performance, in other words, mine. I was shocked. I never felt my story was worth telling in the first place compared to the other girls, so for Sasha to use it and ask me to direct a devised piece about it was pretty mind blowing. It was difficult to do. Not only to direct my peers but to dissect my story and give it over to others is a challenge but it was made easier because the story was not personal to the others, so they could offer suggestions and build the piece with me with no holding back. It also helped that I had Tamoy play me and having Anasthasia play my mum was inspired casting, she made me both laugh and cry.

I’m grateful to have worked on my story in that way. It taught that me that even little old me has something worth saying.

Anastasia later described how strong the bonds were between the group was after less than two weeks spent working together…

Departing from the Zimbabwean team was hard and upsetting but it made me realise just how strong the unity between the UK and Zimbabwean group was. Although we physically left the country, we weren’t truly saying goodbye. I like to think that no amount of land, sea or time can break apart the sisterhood made from two very different cultures of unified women formed this summer in 2017.

We shared some of the Unified Women performance in Bulwayo on the Young Vic’s instagram account. Here’s a short snippet of the sharing from our Insta story…

Keep an eye out for YV Taking Part sharing a video of the Unified Women project, and for their future workshops and productions on the YV’s Instagram and Snapchat as well as the YV Taking Part twitter.

The Unified Women project is supported by the British Council, Zimbabwe.
Many thanks to Josh, the Nhimbe Trust and our project partners, Africalia, Youth Contact Centre and Bluez Café
 for hosting us and making the trip so memorable.

New Season Announcement: Young Vic 2017 Season – Time to make some noise.

We’re not doing 2017 by halves, we’re over the moon (you’ll get that in a minute) to announce seven new shows in our 2017 line up.

In the Main House it’s the season of creative returns: Joe Wright returns to the Young Vic with Life Of Galileo after his acclaimed production of A Season of the Congo.  Sell-out sensation, Yerma is back for a limited run. The incredible team behind Happy Days reunites for Wings, directed by Natalie Abrahami. And, The Suppliant Women brings back Ramin Gray, after Living with the Lights on. Over in the studios we have Taha, Nina and How to Win Against HistoryFind out more on all the shows below.

Life of Galileo ( 6 May – 24 Jun)

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BAFTA Award-winning film director Joe Wright (Atonement, Anna Karenina) returns to the Young Vic after his celebrated production of A Season in the Congo, with Brendan Cowell in the title role following his acclaimed performance in Yerma.

Galileo makes an explosive discovery about the universe with his new invention – the telescope. The establishment is in an uproar over his powerful challenge to their worldview and their entrenched religious beliefs.

Brecht’s masterpiece will be performed in-the-round on a stunning set designed by Lizzie Clachan (Yerma, A Season in the Congo) and with projections by 59 Productions (Feast, War Horse).

Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht, translated by John Willett, runs 6 May – 24 June 2017 in the Young Vic’s Main House. It is directed by Joe Wright with design by Lizzie Clachan, video by Lysander Ashton for 59 Productions, light by Jon Clark,  sound by Tom Gibbons, puppet direction by Sarah Wright and dramaturgy by Sarah Tipple. With Brendan Cowell and more to be announced.

Yerma (26 Jul – 31 Aug)

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★★★★★
‘An extraordinary theatrical triump’ – The Times

★★★★★
‘A shatteringly powerful reinvention of a familiar classic’ – The Independent

★★★★★ – The Observer, Evening Standard, Metro, Mail on Sunday, The Sun, iNews

2016’s biggest hit returns for a strictly limited run. The extraordinary Billie Piper plays Her, a woman driven to the unthinkable by her desperate desire to have a child.

Simon Stone creates a radical new production of Lorca’s achingly powerful masterpiece.

Yerma by Simon Stone after Federico García Lorca runs 26 July – 31 August in the Young Vic’s Main House. It is directed by Simon Stone with design by Lizzie Clachan, costumes by Alice Babidge, light by James Farncombe, music & sound Stefan Gregory, video by Jack Henry James, casting by Julian Horan CDG. With, Maureen Beattie, Brendan Cowell, John MacMillan, Billie Piper and Charlotte Randle. 

Yerma is now sold out. We will be running returns queues on the day from an hour before each performance. Find more information on NT Live screenings here.  

Wings (14 September – 28 October) 

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Juliet Stevenson takes on yet another extraordinary role.  Emily was a fiercely independent woman, an aviator and a wingwalker, until a stroke destroyed her sense of reality. Fragments of her life come together as she struggles to find her voice and herself.

The hugely successful collaborators from  Happy Days reunites with director Natalie Abrahami.

Wings by Arthur Kopit runs 14 September – 28 October in the Young Vic’s Main House. It is directed by Natalie Abrahami with design by Michael Levine, light by Guy Hoare, sound by Gareth Fry and movement by Anna Morrisey. With Juliet Stevenson and more to be announced. 

The Suppliant Women ( 13 – 25 November)

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★★★★★
‘An epic, feminist protest song’ – The Guardian

“If we help, we invite trouble.
If we don’t, we invite shame.”

Fifty women leave everything behind to board a boat in North Africa and fl ee across the Mediterranean. They are escaping forced marriage in their homeland, hoping for protection and assistance, seeking asylum in Greece.

Written 2,500 years ago by the great playwright Aeschylus, one of the world’s oldest plays speaks to us through the ages with startling resonance for our troubled times.

Featuring a chorus of young women from London, this is part play, part ritual. Director Ramin Gray unearths an electric connection to the deepest and most mysterious ideas of the humanity – who are we, where do we belong and if all goes wrong – who will take us in?

An Actors Touring Company, Young Vic and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh co-production.

The Suppliant Women by Aeschylus, a new version by David Greig, runs 13 – 25 Novemeber in the Young Vic’s Main House. It is directed by Ramin Gray with music by John Browne, choreography by Sasha Milavic Davies, design by Lizzie Clachan andlight by Charles Balfour. With Callum Armstrong, Oscar Batterham, Ben Burton, Omar Ebrahim and Gemma May Rees. 

Taha ( 5 – 15 July)

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All my life, nothing came easy.
Not even becoming a poet.

A lyrical story of the life of Palestinian poet Taha Muhammed Ali, written and performed by Amer Hlhel.

Amir Nizar Zuabi (The Beloved, I Am Yusuf and This Is My Brother), founder of celebrated theatre company ShiberHur, returns to the Young Vic to direct this London premiere.

An Amer Hlehel, Young Vic and Shubbak Festival co-production.

Taha by Amer Hlehel, translated by Amir Nizar Zuabi, runs 5 – 15 July in the Young Vic’s Maria. It is translated and directed by Amir Nizar Suabi with light by Muaz Jubeh and music by Habib Shehadeh Hanna. With Amer Hlehel.

Nina (19 – 29 July)

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A STORY ABOUT ME & NINA SIMONE

★★★★
‘A searing tribute restarts Simone’s revolution’ – The Guardian

Backed by a brilliant band, Josette Bushell-Mingo mixes story and song as she draws together tales from the life of Nina Simone, her own extraordinary career and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Nina devised by Josette Bushell-Mingo and Dritëro Kasapi runs 19 – 29 July in the Young Vic’s Maria. It is directed by Dritëro Kasapi with design by Rosa Maggiora, light by Matt Haskins, musical direction by Shapor Bastansia and dramaturgy by Christina Anderson. With Josette Bushell-Mingo.

Nina is now sold out. We will be running returns queues on the day from an hour before each performance.

How to Win Against History (30 November – 23 December)

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★★★★★
‘This musical about being a cross-dressing Marquess is a work of genius’ – The Daily Telegraph

★★★★
‘Gleeful, luicrous – a larky collision of Gilbert & Sulivan and Monty Python’ – Time Out

The 5th Marquis of Anglesey was one of the world’s wealthiest men, until he lost it all by being too damn fabulous. A riches-to-rags story becomes a hilarious, ripped-up musical in an outrageous performance by Seiriol Davies.

An Aine Flanagan Productions, Seiriol Davies and Young Vic co-production.

How to Win Against History runs 30 November – 23 December in the Young Vic’s Maria. It is directed by Alex Swift with design by Verity Quinn, light by Dan Saggers, musical direction by Dylan Townley, music by Seiriol Davies and dramaturgy by Eve Leigh. With Matthew Blake, Seiriol Davies and Dylan Townley.

Tickets go on sale to the public on Wednesday 1 February  at 10am. You can become a friend and book today at www.youngvic.org