Art

‘Men of Ambition’ audience deserves full 3-part series

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Summary

  • The production also didn’t make the mistake that many companies do at KCC, which is to mess around with colours in their lighting of the stage.
  • We’ve seen shows that use red lighting to signal scenes of either passion or murder or both.
  • We’ve seen green lights meant to indicate emotions like envy and greed.

From the Journal of Orina’s production of Men of Ambition Part 1, staged last weekend at Kenya Cultural Centre (KCC), had a lot going for it. It had some powerful acting, provocative dialogue, and thematic issues of power, greed, and murder which tend to attract a crowd curious to find out ‘whodunit?’ And how.

The production also didn’t make the mistake that many companies do at KCC, which is to mess around with colours in their lighting of the stage.

We’ve seen shows that use red lighting to signal scenes of either passion or murder or both. We’ve seen green lights meant to indicate emotions like envy and greed.

And when something sinister is about to happen, the lights can go down low so you can barely see the actors. There is always a spotlight to rely on, but often the spot lands out of place.

In every one of these cases, the lighting is not just a distraction. It renders all photographs taken during a show useless and unacceptable for publication or other professional use.

The Men of Ambition lights-man/woman didn’t resort to red, green or black lights. But they did have a fixation for blue lighting, which fortunately wasn’t used throughout the show, but enough to make me wish coloured lighting would be reconsidered for use by the stage director.

The big problem with Men of Ambition Part 1 was not so much the plot, acting, or directing of the five-person cast. The big issue is the playwright Orina’s planning to script a three-part play, but only present us with Part 1 last weekend.

How come? Perhaps he hasn’t scripted Parts 2 and 3. But then he might have been wiser to wait until his three-act play was complete instead of leaving his audience mystified at the end of Part 1.

The mystification was evident when nobody applauded at Part 1’s end. It required the director-playwright to come out and confess, the show was over. One could hear grumbles that the show was too short, which it was. But there were other problems related to leaving us with an inexplicable cliffhanger.

I don’t want to spoil audience enjoyment which will undoubtedly come once Orina completes all three parts, and stages Men of Ambition as simply an intriguing three-act play. But the way Part 1 ended was incredulous and unbelievable.

The storyline centred round the Radiri ‘dynasty’ and the issue of succession. The founding father of the family had just died, but mourning was quickly ruled out by Duke (Odhiambo Gadwil), the second son who claimed that he should be next in line since the first-born son, Cliff (Orina Brian) was weak despite their father having decided he should be his successor.

The adopted daughter Vanessa (Brenda Kinya) also aspired to be head, although her intentions were much less clear since she was mainly fielding verbal abuses from her step-brother Duke.

The matriarch of the Radiri home, (Mary Kamantha) also felt her role deserved to be reckoned with, and the executor of the old man’s will, Esquire (Clinton Mwiti) was also on hand, apparently because he was both the father’s and the company’s barrister.

Quibbling among themselves ended as Cliff took charge to offer a toast to the new family arrangement. Unfortunately, someone had poisoned the wine that only Cliff drank. Now the scene cleverly switched into a murder mystery. Who would have wanted Cliff dead? Duke’s flamboyant style of having tried to grab his brother’s seat effectively set him up to be suspect number one.

Duke was right to protest that he was being set up. But no matter. While the stage got turned into a kind of family court, with Esquire serving as the presiding judge, Duke challenged all three critics, exposing the flaws of his mother, step-sister, and even the barrister.

Nonetheless, the three ganged up on him. Thus, he was ‘charged’ and convicted for his brother’s murder, disowned from the family, and banished for good.

As soon as he left, something peculiar happened. The three were clearly co-conspirators, but the master mind behind what we had just watched turned out to be none other than who? Vanessa? Then, boom, Part 1 ends.

One assumes that the characters’ motivations will be clarified in Parts 2 and 3. But without even subtle clues suggesting that Vanessa is the wily witch that she would seem to be, one has to insist that Orina present us with the whole play next time. It is only fair to his audience.