Edinburgh: Malawian artists take swipe at Madonna

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A young black man sporting a blonde wig and playing Madonna? The idea is unique. Malawian artists have decided to depict Madonna’s adoption of Mercy James on stage. This hilarious musical, which shows between August 7 and 31 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, highlights the adoption process and the side attractions the international media failed to report on.

Madonna as a young black man with long blond hair is a radically unique idea, which does not leave anyone indifferent. Madonna’s carefully groomed image takes a nosedive as her “unlook-alike”, Robert Magasa, appears in a blond wig and a heavily powdered face. He flashes a generous smile and moves majestically to her tune! The promising musical shows from August 7 to 31 at the world famous arts festival, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in Scotland. The show does not intend to let Madonna go scot-free. Their goal is to show how the pop star managed to adopt Mercy James, a four-year old Malawian girl.


Madonna saw James Mercy in an orphanage when she was visiting the country in 2006. A legal battle ensued after which the Court of Malawi ruled that Madonna could adopt a second Malawian child. She had previously adopted David Banda. The case attracted widespread criticism as the international media accused the mega pop star of using her money to buy children. In Malawi the adoption triggered a national debate.

The theatrical music is a blend of musical styles, both traditional and international. It includes a generous repertoire of their rendition of Madonna’s tunes, rewritten to relate the story without being judgemental. The storyline is concentrated on the African debate surrounding the adoption. In fact, the audience is left to decide whether or not an international adoption is morally acceptable.

“You know that money is the answer to everything”

Shombi Banda, one of the actors in the play was sacked shortly after a performance in front of Madonna during her visit Lilongwe. “It was a very nice performance with the show talking about someone who went abroad for 20 years and then when he came back he was complaining life abroad was very tough and how he had lost his culture and his identity”, he explained. According to the actor, Madonna, miffed by the storyline, interrupted the play saying: “You know money is the answer to everything.”

Talking to the BBC, the show’s director, Toby Gough, explained that Shombi Banda was thrown out because he had revealed some minor details concerning Madonna and also talked about how she had heckled him during his performance.

Madonna’s adoption of Mercy James triggered international criticisms. While some argued that it was not right to uproot a child from his or her cultural environment, others insisted that the poor child from the orphanage would be better taken care of abroad. Despite its depth, the show still manages to take a deliciously cruel swipe at Madonna’s carefully groomed “blond” image.

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