It’s a healthy sign of the development and growth of Kenyan theatre that a bunch of members of the Heartstrings cast split from the mother lode and created a new theatre group altogether.
More than a year ago, Osoro Cyprian, Victor Nyaata, and Nick Kwach joined hands with Dennis Ndenga to create Crony Productions.
Coast of Living is their second major show which opened last weekend at Alliance Francaise. Already, Crony has a faithful following, mainly among friends who loved Heartstrings performances when they saw Nick, Victor, and Osoro in them.
The public may find many similarities between the two troupes, especially in the free-spirited way they both operate. Both favour humor and entertainment. Both tend to draw their themes from current affairs, trends, and everyday living.
But concerning Coast of Living, Crony steers clear of anything that resembles political ‘correctness’ or even a hint of politics at all. Instead, it tackles the titillating topic of men on the move to satisfy their sensual desires by any means available and away from their women’s prying eyes.
There’s little subtlety in the way the male gaze dominates this script. Macho-masculinity seems to assert itself in various ways, starting with a dad (played with glee by Humphrey Maina) bringing his daughter’s BFF, Sophie (Makena Kahuha) down to the Coast to frolic (similar to what Woody Allen did when he got
involved with his wife Mia Farrow’s adopted Korean daughter. It caused such a scandal he had to eventually divorce Mia and marry the Korean girl.)
But that story is really a side show to the broader topic of the three friends, (Victor Nyaata, Nick Kwach, and Moses Gatheca) who are looking to have a good time the weekend before Fabian (Kwach) marries his sweetheart, Maria (Natasha Wanjiru).
The only hitch is that Fabian doesn’t want to cheat on his fiancée. He even advises his friends on the value of settling down and getting on with their lives. Yet Baron (Victor) is hot to trot and the trio finally take the advice of their hotelier, Sultan (Osoro Cyprian) and get out to exercise so they’ll be strong when he introduces them to several sexy ladies who will be happy to accommodate them.
This is when we see Fabian stumble into the same problematic pit that many men fall into. He sees Sophie on the beach. She has managed to escape Baba Maria long enough to walk alone and meet the exercisers.
As it turns out, Fabian and Sophie had known each other years before, but their lives took separate paths. He trained to be an advocate, and she trained to do who knows what. But surely, both knew it wasn’t a smart idea to rekindle an old friendship right before Fabian’s wedding.
What made the prospect even worse is that she is literally like a sister to Maria. So she is not only cheating on Mama Maria (Marion Wambui) and engaging in a pseudo-incestuous relationship with the Baba. She is also cheating on her soul-sister, Sophie, which is most painful of all.
But all that doesn’t come to light until after Sultan showcases his sexy girls to the trio. He presents them in silhouetted style, having them dance and gyrate in sexually suggestive turns, after which the men are meant to make their choice. Nick seems impervious to such temptations. But he gets snagged that weekend by Sophia.
Apparently, Fabian wasn’t planning on mentioning his misconduct to Maria once they got back home. But as Baron had invited his new Mombasa friends to the wedding, they spill the beans once they see Sophia and Baba Maria arrive soon after they do.
Like being stabbed in the heart, Maria’s pain translates to outrage and an absolute refusal to stick with a guy who’s disrespected her so flagrantly. She also blames Sophia, but her wrath hits squarely at him. Removing her engagement ring and publicly calling it quits, she lets everybody know that there will be no wedding. And she means it.
This is when we recall that for feminists, politics are personal. Maria has taken an adamant stand for women’s freedom and refusal to bow to male opportunism. Her mom represents the old-fashioned point of view, to excuse men’s improprieties for the sake of security and family stability. That’s what she did, but look what that got her! Better to be free and true to one’s self than otherwise.