The Convert takes place in 1890s Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. It tells the story of Jekesai, a native teenager who has fled her village and an arranged marriage to an older man and into the the home of a local African where her aunt, Mai Tamba, works. Jekesai works as a house maid for the man who takes the opportunity to teach her English and convert her to Catholicism. She becomes his protégé and she works with him in converting other natives to the church. However, the true underlying story is the racial and cultural clash taking place between the natives and the colonial Europeans. The battle is between the African traditions and European culture and the white and black cultures. That is the real story that propels the show forward. Jekesai’s benefactor, Chilford, longs to become a priest and is doing everything he can to catch the eye of the religious leaders amongst the European colonists. At the same time, Mai Tamba is practicing her pagan voodoo protection rituals around the house. The turning point of the show is when Jekesai is forced to make a decision on the anniversary of her father’s death by either choosing to participate in a native ritual marking the anniversary, or staying true to her newly found Catholic faith. From there the show builds around the growing unrest the natives feel and their backlash against the white colonists and the Catholic belief system being imparted to the natives. This results in a backlash not only against the white population, but also the Africans, like Chilford, that have adopted and become followers of the colonists. At the same time, the locals that have chosen to follow the Europeans never truly being able to become equals of their European counterparts.
The show is over 3 hours and is done in 3 acts with 2 intermissions. It is an interesting story that is still relevant in many ways to the modern world and some of the cultural conflicts we still see today. The performers do an excellent job portraying their characters and using their accents to take you to the time and place of the story. The show did not feel like it dragged and was well paced throughout, except for perhaps a slightly drawn out first act and an end of the show that felt the need to resolve all the story lines.
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