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Society & Success

Local Comedy Mirrors Kenya’s Political Drama

Nick Kwach (centre) must choose between candidate 1 (with his kid)  and candidate 2 (USIU graduate) who has his heart in ‘Return to Sender’ comedy show that captures Kenya’s current political predicament. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG
Nick Kwach (centre) must choose between candidate 1 (with his kid) and candidate 2 (USIU graduate) who has his heart in ‘Return to Sender’ comedy show that captures Kenya’s current political predicament. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG 

Heartstrings Entertainment rarely fails when it comes to the issue of timing.

And by timing I’m not just referring to the way everyone speaks their lines on time or the way, when Victor Nyaata (as the younger Makandu brother) stands up for one woman ‘candidate’ that his older brother Boldrine (Nick Kwach) has wronged, the third brother Tobias (Cyprian Osoro) chimes in to fight back, defending the other ‘candidate’ and USIU graduate, Cynthia. Each is vying for something substantial from Nick.

I’m also talking about the way the latest HE comedy Return to Sender was devised and staged right when Kenyans were also taking sides on which candidate to support in the up-coming elections.

In Kenya’s case, the choice (until last Tuesday) was between two presidential candidates. But in the play, it’s the avowed bachelor-brother Nick who’s also being compelled to choose between two women ‘candidates’, one of whom may theoretically become his wife.

In fact, Return to Sender is a perfect metaphor for Kenya’s current predicament — who to choose to become the country’s next Big Man.

At first, one doesn’t necessarily see the allegorical nature of the comedy. It’s just about three brothers who rarely meet other than during national elections when they return to their rural home to vote.

The first brother to arrive home is Tobias and his wife (Adelyne Wairimu). They are clearly urbanites, although the hubby vows his family will move back to the land once his wife ‘retires’. But she is just as adamant in refusing either to retire early or to return one day to rural areas.

Their bickering is interrupted by the arrival of first, the youngest bro and shortly thereafter, by the oldest who they’d all assumed was a happy bachelor up until his arrival with his haughty non-Kenyan girlfriend (Faith Kibatha). A bigger interruption comes when Nick sets off an alarm and everyone assumes it’s a ‘terrorist’ attack either by rural ruffians out to cause havoc or hooligans using the elections to stage robberies.

Whatever its nature, the alarm sets off a frenzy of feverish flight for cover by family members. Their impulsive angst seems to mirror what we often see when local people run for cover once they see demonstrators running their way chanting for their candidate.

The plot thickens when the ‘terrorist’ turns out to be Nick’s former girlfriend (Mackrine Ardala) who wants reparations (either cash, land or marriage) since he left her pregnant and she’s now got a four-year old child.

The showdown then ensues. Nick’s brothers each side with one woman and start campaigning on her behalf.

Ultimately, it’s Cyprian’s wife who intervenes, asking what they’re fighting for and why? And how would they benefit either way?

Her question is the same one that Heartstrings seems to want Kenyans to ask? They’re implicitly asking: Why fight over a candidate when only the winner and his inner circle is bound to benefit?

In the play, Nick leaves us hanging but he promises to make his choice on October 26, which coincidentally is the country’s voting day. Or at least it was until one candidate quit, leaving us wondering what will happen next.

Heartstrings must be commended for seeing the comic element in Kenya’s current electoral season. We expect to see more hilarity and drama coming out of latest political fiasco. I’m informed HE director Sammy Mwangi is already working on it.

Meanwhile, Martin Kigondu has also been busy. His Prevail Arts Company staged What happens in the Night in Nanyuki last weekend and will give a repeat performance tomorrow from 5pm at Daystar University Valley Road. His script also has a political edge and stars Chichi Seii, Nick Ndeda, Salim Gitao, Mourad Sadat and Shivisi Shiviske.

Prevail Arts performed another of Martin’s plays last weekend during the 3rd annual Somali Heritage Week. The two-hander entitled Matchstick Men didn’t quite fit the Somali Heritage agenda as it was all about two men (Bilal Mwaura and Emmanuel Mulili) who both seemed mentally imbalanced.

What made more sense on the Kenya National Theatre stage was the Somali fashion show that featured lovely youth dressed in local designer fashions.

What also appealed was the informative and disturbing documentary film, Water to Dust, all about the plight of Lake Turkana followed by a panel discussion on the impact of Climate Change on the region.

Finally, tonight we’ll hear who won the Smartphone Film competition at Alliance Francaise.

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