A long weekend of rich-menu theatre

Ian Mbugua (left) and Nick Ndeda in MENding Monologues. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU
Ian Mbugua (left) and Nick Ndeda in MENding Monologues. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU 

We’re in for a long weekend of theatre, which, to my mind, is a good thing. From Thursday through the coming Monday night, theatre-lovers will have a field day, given the diversity of productions to be showcased.

There will be everything from Shakespeare to monologues about sex (and the violence sometime associated with it) to family sagas and of course, that favourite live theatre topic, infidelity.

It started last night when One Billion Rising and the Flore Initiative got together again to produce MENding Monologues, a ‘comedy’ that explores the serious topic of sexual violence but with a light touch and from a male perspective.

Directed by Mbeki Mwalimu and featuring some of the best known Kenyan actors, Flore Initiative’s Naomi Mwaura managed to get Ian Mbugua, Nick Ndeda, Mary Mwikali, Gilbert Lukalia, Wanjiku Mburu and Nick Mutuma all involved in the charity production that runs through Saturday night at the Michael Joseph Centre from 7pm.

Created back in 2007 by a group of men, led by Derek... who wanted to script a series of monologues in the same sensitive yet comedic spirit as Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, MENding Monologues explores a remarkably wide range of personal topics related to sexual violence against women.

Attending a rehearsal early this week, I found the show riveting, daring and refreshingly candid, although it might rattle some traditionalists who don’t believe sex should be discussed in public. Yet each monologue is infused with humour, poetry and candour, mostly from a male perspective. It’s a show worth watching.

Then Friday night, Friends Ensemble opens at Alliance Francaise in Couples Behaving Badly, which is hopefully not just another formulaic comedy about infidelity.

Directed by Ellis Otieno, Friends’ cast includes the same shimmering four actors who just came off the Phoenix Players stage where they co-starred in The Opposite Sex.

Undoubtedly, Samson Psenjen, Melissa Kiplagat, Mwajuma Bahati and Joe Kinyua will become a different sort of cheater than the ones we saw at Phoenix; nonetheless, one feels for the actors who must have had to cram their lines since Opposite Sex just closed last Sunday night.

Couples Behaving Badly runs through Sunday with two shows Friday night, one at 6pm, one at 8.30pm; three shows on Saturday, at 3pm, 6pm and 8.30pm and two others on Sunday at 3pm and 6pm.

Book early

On Monday evening, life gets complicated as there will be two must-see, one-show-only productions happening simultaneously.

One is coming all the way from UK where thespians at the Globe Theatre chose to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth by taking one of his best known plays and staging it all around the world.

Hamlet is opening at the Oshwal Centre auditorium at 7pm, courtesy of Globe to Globe theatre and the British Council. Theatre goers have been advised by Keith Pearson of The Theatre Company to book early and be mindful of traffic so they don’t miss the opening scene.

The tragedy is that the award-winning play, Blood Brothers, is being staged simultaneously at the Braeburn Theatre. A show that got rave reviews in Mombasa when it was staged recently, it is about two twin brothers who got separated at birth, one going to a wealthy family, the other to a poor home. What happens when they finally meet is a gripping story where class is a key factor affecting the contrasts in their lives.

Blood Brothers is a student production but the quality of theatrical training at Braeburn is quite high, so expect to see a show that’s well worth wondering if you should skip Shakespeare.

Next Friday night at the Phoenix Theatre, Jacob Otieno both directs and co-stars with Maggie Karanja (as Mandisa) and Marianne Nungo (as Thando) in another award-winning play, Nothing But the Truth.

Scripted by South African writer/actor/film producer John Kani who, rose to fame working closely with the great playwright Athol Fugard during the dark days of Apartheid, Kani also had starred in the role of Sipho. That’s the role Jacob will play.

What’s slightly ironic about Nothing But the Truth is that it too is about two brothers, although the context is different. Sipho stayed home and was part of the anti-apartheid struggle while his brother, now deceased, went abroad and being brought home to be buried.

It’s another production one should not miss and one hopes it will signal the start of an exciting theatre calendar for Phoenix Players in 2015.