'Deno Says He's Dead' …and probably he's right

Deno Says He’s Dead, a theatre performance, got big laughs this past weekend at Kenya National Theatre. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

Deno Says He’s Dead, a theatre performance, got big laughs this past weekend at Kenya National Theatre where Millaz Productions presented their retelling of the tale originally fashioned by British playwright Ray Cooney in 1982.

Back then it was the comedy, Run for your Wife and it has been staged in Nairobi several times, most recently by Aperture Africa in Parklands.

The Millaz’ adaptation of the storyline is quite similar to the original. It is the tale of an ordinary urban-based taxi driver who operates from two homes simultaneously. Or rather one could say consecutively since he keeps each household separate and secret from the other. But he only does this by running on a precise timetable.

He has helped to stay on track by the fact that he has essentially self-employed. That allows him to define his hours and justify his absence from his women according to the timing he keeps and follows systematically.

His wives are unaware that their husband, Dennis Wafula (Robinson Mudavadi) is a polygamist, and that another woman and family exist in Wafula’s life. Nor do they know that Dennis (known as John in the original script) has been living this way for many years and covered his tracks so carefully that he has kept both families living in the same town.

But Dennis has not anticipated everything. He had not foreseen the glitch in his timetable that ensued after he got clobbered by the little old lady who mistook him for a thug like the two petty thieves who had tried to rob her, and who

Dennis had stopped his car to help her out.

Deno Says He’s Dead begins in the twin homes of Dennis’ wives. The play operates with a split-screen effect, with each household occupying half the stage.

Both wives, Mary (Flora Okonji) who is technically wife number one, and Shanique (Red Brenda) who is wife number two, are looking feverishly for their man who had spent time in hospital before finally reaching Mary’s home. He is unsettled since he’s lost control of his carefully-managed life.

The rest of the play is all about Dennis trying to retrieve control of his situation. He has one accomplice, Stanley Mshamba (Allan Shiaso) who often makes matters worse for Dennis, but occasionally steps in to save his buddy from being caught by the wives or police officers. It’s not immediately clear who Dennis fears more, but one soon discovers that it’s his women.

The hilarity in the rest of the show is in watching the way Dennis and his pal Mshamba play hide and seek with Deno’s spouses and the police, one from Kasarani, the other from Pangani. The media is also a menace that Deno tries to avoid.

But that’s impossible since one hawkeyed photojournalist (Calcine Antoinett) had been on the spot when the old lady fought off the thieves and Dennis got credit for it. Of course, the irony of the situation is that Deno was deemed “a hero” for saving the grandma; but it was she who saved herself while clobbering Deno in the process.

Two of the silliest scenes in the show are when first Mshamba and then Deno see his photo on the front page of the local press. Both guys try to munch and swallow that front page just so the wives do not see the image of their man being identified as one Dennis Wafula, a taxi driver who had come to the lady’s rescue.

There is one big difference between the Ray Cooney comedy and the one revised by Millaz’s founding father, Xavier Nato. It is that in the original, one reaches the end of the play, only to find that the wives had discovered long ago that Wafula had two wives and two homes.

As it turned out, they had become best friends and agreed to continue with the status quo, and pretend not to know about the other woman.

So while they watched him squirm and struggle to ensure they never know about each other, they finally confess that they knew about his sneaky lifestyle all along. Thus, all is forgiven and they live happily ever after.

Not so in Deno Says He’s Dead, here the women do not know about the life that Dennis leads. They do not know he has been stringing them along all this time. So once he has got no place else to hide, he realises nobody’s going to be amused by his lies. That’s why he concludes that it’s over for him.

Deno expects the worse, and he is probably right.

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