REVIEW: Finding Temeraire (The Basement)

Review by Tim George

[A Ghost Story]

Written and directed by Stanley Makuwe, Finding Temeraire is an extremely dark and disturbing look at the debris of a relationship, but its most incisive critique is left unsaid.

The play is a two-hander about Primrose (Sandra Zvenyika), who returns home after a long prison sentence for killing her child, intent on confronting the man, Temeraire (Tawanda Manyimo),  who betrayed her…

Sandra Zvenyika is magnificent. The script hands her most of the heavy lifting, and she is absolutely hypnotising. There are some potentially awkward transitions and slightly forced exposition, but she makes it feel completely natural. Veering between multiple emotional states and roles (tourist, flirt, betrayed lover), Zvenyika makes all these moments feel like a progression of the character’s thought process.

With a character like this it would be easy to lean hard into the pathos, but Zvenyika laces her portrayal with a sardonic edge that adds a nasty layer of irony to her interactions with her oblivious former lover.

As Temeraire, Manyimo is literally and figuratively silenced. He spends most of the action tied up and forced to listen while Zvenyika tears his character down.

Set on an empty stage, with a cross hanging overhead, this show is all about the ghosts of the past. The deserted mining town is an evocative setting, and is the perfect metaphor for Temeraire’s reduced status and the dead child his paramour has had weighing on her conscience.

Post-natal depression and infanticide are hard subjects to tackle, but Makuwe forces them to the fore, through Primrose’s blunt account of what happened to her as she gave birth alone in her tiny room while he was off having fun with his wife and friends. Terrifying and bleak, it is a testament to everyone involved that she does not come across as a monster for her actions.

While the interpersonal fireworks are the showpiece, the subtext is hard to miss. Colonialism is never directly referenced, but it festers through the entire show. The abandoned town, Temeraire’s absent ‘white friends’, and their most lasting contribution, the Christian cross hanging literally over the characters’ heads, dictating the morality and social mores that are the cause of Primrose’s rage.

The subject matter might be a turn-off to some, but if you are in the mood for something dramatically meaty, Finding Temeraire is the ticket. A powerful piece of theatre super-charged by a terrific lead performance.

Finding Temeraire plays at The Basement until 21st October 

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Nik Smythe

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