Shaheen Jassat


On 29 October 1994, a group of friends put on a theatrical performance for the first time at a street festival in Harare, Zimbabwe. This group would become Over the Edge, one of Zimbabwe’s most prolific and successful, independent theatre companies. One of the Founders of Over the Edge was 18 year-old Shaheen Jassat. Shaheen’s  creativity and talent as an actor, scriptwriter and producer lead the group to new and more ambitious work with each production. Among his many visions was: 

Shaheen with Over The Edge achieved all this and more in just a few short years. 


Shaheen is the son of Ali, a musician and entrepreneur and Nadia who now live in Southhampton, United Kingdom. His brothers are Isham and Adam.

Over The Edge Zimbabwe

Shaheen is a founding member of Over The Edge theatre troupe. 

Over the Edge early days.

First public performance

Producing behind the scenes.

Early Work

Over The Edge was groundbreaking. It was especially noted for its racial diversity having more or less equal ratios of black, white, coloured and part Asian members. Shaheen’s vision for increasing the audience base outside of the existing largely white theatre audience in Harare met great success as audiences as mixed as the group themselves flooded the theatres. 

Although Over the Edge had no formal artistic director, Shaheen was largely responsible for pushing the group to challenge new areas in the Arts, especially ones that were previously inaccessible or unexplored. His script writing featured original, comic political satires. There were no boundaries that he felt could and should not be broken, using the Arts to open conversations and encouraging integration for a society just starting to understand itself post independence. 

Shaheen was a product of the first integrated schooling system and his most powerful work was written at the time the Zimbabwe government's first failures were coming to light.

Shaheen was highly influential with the decision of the troupe to rise to the challenge to take on theatre’s great Masters, like Moliere, Arthur Miller and William Shakespeare. They brought the unique Over the Edge creativity to these famous plays, adding a grounding in Africa and often throwing the rule book out to make them connect to the audience. Again, the success was incredible, with an added new vision to connect with a school going younger audience, helping them find a connection with these plays, some of which were academic texts they had to study and engender a lasting love for the Arts in them.


Zimbabwe's first alternative tv channel

In 1996, he co-wrote and co-produced (along with the now larger Over the Edge troupe), a full length TV programme for Zimbabwe’s first independent television channel, Joy TV. At that time, all television programming was broadcast only via the government controlled TV station. The satirical sketches and catchy comedy guaranteed a massive first audience for the channel. Government oppression was swift and the channel was closed. These clips of Shaheen presenting and inbetween takes are the closest recording to capturing the essence of Shaheen off camera - the charismatic allure, the comedic undercurrent, the intensity when working.

Sun 7th

13 Feb


Shaheen Jassat and Over The Edge to write more challenging work, producing the first of their ‘Anti-Panto’ Pantomimes. The direct references to the unspoken government oppression and control drew in massive audiences in need of an outlet for the mix of emotions and feelings about their current reality--good and bad. Equally important, because he was mixed race, and also because of the racial diversity of Over the Edge, he allowed people to have a conversation about the status quo right outside of the theatre after each performance. 

Solo Career

Shaheen pursued his own solo career and became one of Zimbabwe’s first professional actors to gain international success, opening doors for a stream of actors, who would follow and share the country’s rich artistic talent on global stage and screens. 

Besides quickly becoming one of Zimbabwe's leading male theatre actors, Shaheen appeared in a few on camera roles. The most famous is a recurring role in Heat of the Sun tv series as Inspector Singh.

He became the official continuity host for Zimbabwe's first private television channel, JoyTv. His work behind the scenes as a driving motivator contributed greatly to the successful start of the station.

Shaheen also performed voice overs for radio advertisments and for acting in tv commercials.

A Fearless ambition and a limitless vision

Shaheen possessed an unshakeable creativity. It ran through everything he did. It was not secondary to what he did, it was what he did. For many people, you explore and experience a range of areas as you find your 'fit'. For Shaheen this fit was ready and its purity gathered people to him. This was matched by an fearless ambition which understood no possibility of 'no, not possible'. 

First it was the self written scripts that moved from small skits to full length plays. Then it was the Classics, from Moliere, Miller and then Shakespeare. The boundary to what was 'allowed', against 'what is possible' never appeared to Shaheen, or if it did it was the incentive. 

Zimabwean Success

The Around Zimbabwe Tour

Touring the country with a comedy review to see the famous theatres of each iconic city. For many of these towns, the mixed race troupe with original work was a surprise, but their curiosity got the better of them and the houses were full. 


Harare International Festival of the Arts Performing at Harare International Festival of the Arts, the main festival of the country. Gaining a slot as a local troupe was hard, getting a better theatre, then selling out a show as a local troupe - these were triply hard with the audiene hungry for international exposure and watching their budgets. 

Booking and selling out Reps Theatre. 

To understand this, Reps was were the group had met and formed as teenagers. The Main Stage was reserved for commercial, big public pleasing productions. There were a few other options, including the Theatre Upstairs with its 50 seats, that even with 10 people could feel like a success. First they performed a one night only comedy review, but this spurred them on to do a run of a full lenght original play, called Completely Over the Edge.

Booking and selling out the country's largest Theatre - the 7Arts. 

This was the boldest move so far. This would mean that they would have to break out into the consciousness of the entire city, not just friends and family and the immediate theatre circle. The enture city would be drawn to choose to spend money and time on this bunch of local kids. Conceptually, only big international artists could achieve this, let alone the deposit to convince the management. However, at lunch time on the day of the first night performance, this management came and interrupted the tech rehearsal with to say that the show was Sold Out. What was more, it was the first time for many years that the entire Theatre was Sold Out. Indeed, they had to go look for the Sold Out sign, long forgotten in storage. In a country that was coming to terms with its recent independence, where the racial scars of a brutual past were still wounds, where the first wave of integrated school children were surprising and frightening their parents, out in the audience was every section of this society - sitting next to each other - laughing at the same jokes - which were about them. This is true meaning of Amazing.

The Classics

If the critics could scoff at some satires and amateur scripting, Shaheen placed the world's greatest scripts on the table. Here the next level of genius, really of Freedom, came to elevate these works. The script is the thing - the Art is the essence. The removal of restrictions like gender, age and race freed up these performances. For the Crucible, by Arthur Miller, the 30 person+ cast was divided between the 8 member team with clever editing to neither loose the story nor the essence. 

Moliere's Learned Ladies pushed Art to new levels with Daryl Nero painting the sets and Di Wilson and Laurie Watermeyer's incredible direction elevating and refining what was possible from a bunch of untrained amateur performers. 

Shakespeare was the ultimate challenge and Macbeth was the door opener. 

International Success

Shaheen traveled with Over the Edge to their first appearance at the world's biggest Festival, the Edinburgh Festival. His drive and vision collaborated with this small group from a small country with no history of international fame in this genre to go to the biggest festival in the world. 

This was key to the mindset that drove Shaheen - Go for it - and when you do, Go for the Best. Many people suggested that they should try the Grahamstown Festival, then the most highly acclaimed Festival to the Zimbabwean community, but Shaheen set his sights on global impact. 

They were able to book and perform Eternal Peace Asylum, by Lucian Msamati and reviewd excellent reviews, surprising audiences and critics and exciting promoters so much that Over the Edge would return to perform for five amazing years at the Festival, selling out every performance in the later years, even when they would bring two plays to do at the same time and receiving the fabled 4 stars review from the ultimate reviewer, The Stage.

Zimbabweans living in the disapora would come each night to the city and exit glowing with pride that this small group from home were on the world stage. 

The shows were picked up by promoters and Over the Edge were able to perform all over the world, their original works and their original versions of classics - from the United States, the United Kingdom and all over Europe.


Shaheen died in a tragic car accident in 1999. He was awarded his Law Degree posthumously as he was three months away from graduating. His death stunned the country and catalysed Over the Edge creatively, and they went on to achieve extraordinary international recognition, touring the world, sharing their unique creativity that was always connected back to Africa and their original social commentary. 

Over the Edge, his family, his many friends and fans often wonder what Shaheen would have achieved if he was still alive. He would without doubt have achieved his dream of becoming a globally recognised star. As for the impact he would have had on the world, the possibilities are endless for this highly intelligent creative genius. However, a couple of clues lie in his work till his death: in his ability to see no limits for what could and should be achieved; in his fearless and honest challenge to oppression and social injustice; in his extraordinary vision for what was possible and in his unique charisma that could connect with every single person in his audience, as they are drawn towards his irresistible glow. He would have continued to make great social impact using the Arts to change the conversations and turn dreams into treasures.

Awards and Scholarships

Shaheen won many awards in his career, including from the National Institute of Allied Arts, and Reps Theatre [3] The Shaheen Jassat Award is given in his name.

Other awards are given at Prince Edward High School, which Shaheen attended.

A new scholarship programme will be inaugurated at African Leadership Academy offered by Danai Gurira and Yujeja Peng in 2024.

The Shaheen Jassat Scholars Programme


Made as Shaheen was launching his screen career.

Shaheen and Lucian in a rare captured advert together.