Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. That, of course, is an old English proverb from William Shakespeare’s King Henry IV. The ageing monarch is feeling the discomfort of his throne.
Weary, sickly and beset by rebellion from the English noblemen who had helped him to his seat of power, he wonders whether the decisions he made in the past to become king of England were worth it. He wishes that he didn’t seize the throne and murder his predecessor, King Richard II.
On the other hand, Queen Mosadi Kwena (Monnye Kunupi) ascended the throne of the BaKwena people not necessarily through conventional royal protocol, but that was her father, the old king’s wish.
He was unhappy with his male heir, Moseki Kwena (Don Mlangeni Nawa), whom he felt was not fit to rule this proud and prosperous nation. And for 30 years the beautiful queen has ruled the peaceful and stable Botswana kingdom of Kweneng (“place of crocodiles”) fairly and wisely.
A university graduate - the first in the family - she has proven to be a brilliant leader and capable administrator. She is loved by her people and the royal family.
Meanwhile, her brother has set up a rival monarchy - the Morule kingdom. Despite this seemingly equitable state of affairs, Moseki is still disgruntled and conspires to have his pound of flesh.
Matters come to a head when in the first episode it’s discovered that beneath the fertile valley of the kingdom that the queen has developed into a thriving tea plantation, lies rich mineral deposits that can bring billions in terms of mining royalties for the kingdom.
Spurred on by her treacherous and power-hungry daughter, Dipuo (Keke Mphuthi), Moseki is determined to convince the reluctant queen to allow the diggers to move in.
He also conspires with Dipuo to murder the incumbent. But before the assassins can pull the trigger, she is diagnosed with cancer and doesn’t have long to live.
“This throne is stressful,” she tells her friend, adviser and confidante Tshireletso Lerole (Boikie Pholo).
“I don’t know if I have prepared my children for this responsibility.”
The Throne comes from the creators of The Queen. And like the latter, the theme of power and its corrupting effects on human character is at the centre of its storyline. But in this case I believe viewers have a more compelling plot-line. The debilitating consequences of mining on indigenous communities are virgin territory on our television screens.
Stories of rural communities resisting mining on their land or initiating lawsuits against mining companies for environmental hazards suffered are rife. But our dramas hardly tap into such powerful South African narratives.
Ferguson Films should be commended. The casting is remarkable.
For the first time in the history of local dramas, this gripping telenovela brings together screen veterans Don Mlangeni Nawa, Moditle Boikie Pholo, Jerry Pheleve, Seipati Motshwane and Macks Papo. Overall, it’s a work of Shakespearean dimensions.
The Throne airs on Mzansi Magic (DStv channel 161) from Monday to Thursday at 7pm.