Over the Edge


Over the Edge (OTE) was a Zimbabwean theatre company that existed from 1994 to 2004. It was one of Zimbabwe's most prolific and successful independent theatre companies, known for imaginative re-inventions of Shakespeare and original African works. They had a long relationship with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and close links to Reps Theatre.

Early history

Over the Edge first performed on 29 October 1994 at the Avondale Summer Arts Festival in Harare. The members had been friends for years, many having been in Repteens, and were invited to perform some street theatre. This rough and ready performance was the beginning of a long and successful relationship. The group was praised for its talent and enthusiasm but it was especially noted for its racial diversity. Although racial diversity had been standard practise in Zimbabwean theatres and theatrical companies since the 1960s, the majority of performers were inevitably white. Over the Edge, on the other hand, had more or less equal ratios of black, white and "coloured" members. For most of the company's existence Over the Edge had no formal artistic director, with all members contributing to the vision and growth of the group. Towards the end of their 10-year lifespan Wiina Msamati[1] [2] was appointed artistic director for a short period. The group's final theatre piece as Over the Edge was a production of Much Ado About Nothing in 2004.

The group performed numerous "re-imaginations" of Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, Moliere and Joe Orten. These adaptations were often set in Zimbabwe (or in an imagined Southern African country, similar to Zimbabwe) and had many satirical references to Zimbabwe's political scene. The group also performed numerous original comic political satires, with the group's trademark extremism.


JOyTv Launch Pilot

In ... for the first time in Zimbabwe a new television channel was launched. For all our lives there had only been ZBC. Over the Edge were asked to film the launch show. It aired on the channel that night and was wonderfully received. The Government shut the station down the next day. 

However, it left the pilot, capturing some of the troupe best skit work on camera. It also allowed for a new script of the behind the scenes in studio play to be written.

One of OTE's most famous skits was their advert for this self defense weapon.

Written by Kevin, who wrote and still write amazing original story songs.

Surprise guest for the show was ... Dolly Parton, or maybe not as Noreen Welch comes for the expose.

To close the show was the full skit Planet People, which also allowed commentary on the environment and climate change, which was a theme in their work at this time.

Divine Chengahose

A hilarious character created and played by Lucian Msamati. Image Factory luckily captured a few scenes.

The News - with Divine Chengahose, a regular hilarious character and Kevin playing that famous drumming sequence.

Divine read the Letters from Viewer section. Filmed by Image Factory for the JoyTv launch pilot.

Divine does an advert for HaXana cigars - filmed for the JoyTv Launch

The Jacksons

Working together brought out some characters from the members of the Troupe and they reflected the bonds that the almost all biologically unrelated members felt for each other. The family was called The Jacksons, an ode to the famous singing Jackson family. Each family member had their own characteristics and it became a way to connect all the team who started to form around the core members, working on the shows, creating the works and providing support and friendship. Inspired by this new set of characters, Heeten Bhagat produced a television pilot based off some of them and their relationships. The show did not get the chance to air.

The Jacksons continued long after the Troupe stopped performing and is the instant way of re establishing those family bonds and ensured all who were and are part of the Over the Edge story could know that even though a few were named, the Jacksons were really the Community from which Over the Edge came. A community - a family. The J(z)acksons.

Ah footsek! - TV pilot

Overseas productions

The group won international acclaim when its productions of Twelfth Night and Eternal Peace Asylum were performed at the 2000 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The group got standing ovations, glowing reviews and packed houses. They won the "Spirit of The Fringe" award for Twelfth Night and Wiina Msamati was nominated for "Best Actor" in the Stage Awards for Acting Excellence, run by the London newspaper The Stage. The group went on to tour the United States in March 2001, playing at the American Repertory Theater in Boston and many other venues. The productions of Twelfth Night and Eternal Peace Asylum were well received by the American audiences.

In October 2000, three members of the group performed at the Amsterdam International Improvisation Festival. Their improvised production of Long Form gained an instant standing ovation. In 2006, the group, made up of Gavin Peter, Kevin Hanssen and Craig Peter represented Zimbabwe at the World Improv Championships, a cultural event attached to the FIFA World Cup in Germany that year.


Born African

Born African was Over the Edge's most successful production. Written by Kevin Hanssen, Wiina (Lucian) Msamati, and Craig Peter, with additional material by Adam Neill, it was directed by Zane E. Lucas.

The show has many characters, each actor playing multiple parts, but it centres around the lives of three people living in Zimbabwe: a white lawyer, a coloured youth, and a black servant. The production used minimal set and costume, with the donning of a single item of clothing being enough to change character. The three cast members all wore black face paint, in order to bring the characters to the same level.

The show's main strength was its portrayal of ordinary people in Zimbabwe, a view that is rarely seen in other countries. The show also portrayed lesser well-known issues, such as black-on-black violence, mixed-race relationships, and colonial hangovers. The show's central focus, though, was what it actually meant to "be African". The show ends with the characters thinking of leaving Zimbabwe, but realising that they were "born African" and deciding to stay.

The play was first shown at the Harare International Festival of the Arts, before it was reworked and shown at the 2001 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It was critically acclaimed and the cast were nominated for "Best Ensemble" in The Stage Awards.

10th Anniversary

Over the Edge's last show was in 2004, their 10-year anniversary, which was also a reunion of the group. Since then, the group's members are spread far and wide. Lucian Msamati (also known as Wiina) follows a successful career in the UK. Craig Peter and Zane E. Lucas went onto create a theatre development group called Theory X in Zimbabwe. Gavin Peter continued to pursue his passion of teaching, and was chairman of the Allied Arts Festival in Zimbabwe, a large performing arts festival for school students. Kevin Hanssen lives and works as a performing artist and teacher in Southern Africa and abroad.[3] Adam Neill [4] continues with an acting career in Cape Town, South Africa. Karin Alexander lives and works in Cape Town, and Chipo Chung continues to pursue a successful career as an actor and director in the UK and America.[when?][citation needed]


Other notable performers who have been in Over the Edge productions include Danai Gurira, Erica Schofield, and Michael Pearce.

Over the Edge collaborated with a number of notable Zimbabwean directors and designers over the years, including Di Wilson, Dawn Parkinson, Heeten Bhagat, Stephen Hanly, Heather Cameron, Jacqui Taylor, and Laurie MacPherson.

They worked with exeptional media and production teams most notably Ross Markham, Ross Brownlea-Walker, Sunrise Productions, 

Plays & TV