Workshop Negative by Cont Mhlanga – review
Gate Theatre

Published: Friday, July 8, 2016 2:15 PM | Review by: Lloyd Lewis-Hayter | Afridiziak Star Rating:
Workshop Negative, Tandle Theatre - © HelenMurray
Workshop Negative, Gate Theatre - © HelenMurray

The same day we sat down to watch Negative Workshop, astounding images of deserted Zimbabwe streets were being shared over social media


There may have never been a more timely production than Tangle’s Workshop Negative at The Gate Theatre (see listing). The same day we sat down to watch Negative Workshop, astounding images of deserted Zimbabwe streets were being shared over social media as #ZimShutdown2016 took hold of the country. Shops were shut, schools closed and streets empty in a protest against the same president that banned Negative Workshop some 30 years ago.


Recently retiring from his post as head of Amakhosi Theatre Productions the company he founded in 1982, Cont Mhlanga said he relocated out of the city to enjoy the fresh air and give young creatives the chance to take over. The writer of Workshop Negative as well as many other controversial pieces, Mhlanga has been arrested and harassed on many occasions over the years by the government for his criticisms of Robert Mugabe.


Workshop Negative, Tandle Theatre - © HelenMurray
Workshop Negative, Gate Theatre - © HelenMurray

The writer of Workshop Negative as well as many other controversial pieces, Mhlanga has been arrested and harassed on many occasions over the years by the government for his criticisms of Robert Mugabe.

Tangle’s production sees Jude Akuwudike, fresh from his recent role of Supreme Commander Dada Goodblood in critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation as Mkhize, a supposedly socialist black MP and owner of a tool making workshop. Mkhize was able to buy the workshop from its original white owners post-independence, and has employed white worker Ray played by Danilo Antonelli for six years. We meet the characters just as Mkhize hires Zulu, an ex-freedom fighter to work alongside Ray, throwing the dynamics of the workshop in to array.


Hours are long, working conditions are poor and Zulu believes it is Mkhize’s job to make sure workers’ rights are upheld especially after fighting so long for independence. Mkhize’s priorities emerge to lye more in profit making then fairness, and so we watch as the three men’s values clash simultaneously exploring their relationship and Zimbabwe’s shifting society.


Workshop Negative, Tandle Theatre - © HelenMurray
Workshop Negative, Gate Theatre - © HelenMurray

The text is often didactic and the chemistry between the cast members not quite right, but the message is relevant. With some more work and perhaps some tweaks to make the bearing clearer, Tangle could have an exciting piece of work on their hands.


This review took place on the preview of Workshop Negative on Wednesday 6th July, 2016.



Info: Workshop Negative is at The Gate Theatre (see listing) until 9 July 2016 / book tickets -
***SPECIAL OFFER: Grab limited half price tickets for @Tangleplays powerful #WorkshopNegative FRI & SAT night only. Use code MHLANGA***



Workshop Negative, Tandle Theatre - © HelenMurray
Workshop Negative, Gate Theatre- © HelenMurray

Related links

Read interview with John Pfumojena




join our mailing list
* indicates required
Get regular updates on what's happening in the world of African-Caribbean theatre and win theatre tickets.

ENTER YOUR DETAILS BELOW: