Aperture Africa's slap-stick show lives up to its billingFriday May 26 2023
Aperture Africa hit the heights of hilarity recently when they staged The play that goes Wrong at Kenya National Theatre.
Amar and Jinita Desai, the show’s producers, were quickly asked to restage the play since so many early bookings filled the seats for all five performances even before it opened late last month.
Word had gone round that Wrong was a winner, and that it’s still going strong on Broadway and on London’s West End after years due to its enduring appeal.
What also kicked up interest were the short video ads featuring stars, like Yafesi Musoke (last seen in Because You Said So) and Bilal Wanjau (one of Kenya’s leading film and stage veterans) whose humour and wit literally oozed out of the videos.
Then, once people heard who else was in the cast, they booked their seats straight away.
That’s because it included folks like Vikash Pattni (who plays a corpse through much of the show), Daniel Lee Hird (the corrupt police inspector), Davina Leonard (the seductive cheating-diva fiancée), Hiren Vara (the insidious bride-snatching brother to the ‘murder victim’), Nixsha Shah (who pulls more punches than one could imagine coming from such a petite gamin), and Adarsh Shah (who’s come back to theatre at last).
But it was director Amar Desai who brought them all together to create this whirlwind of a slap-stick production that transcends traditional comedy by being a show in which literally everything goes wrong.
The hilarity comes out of the simple theatre adage that ‘the show must go on’.
That means even when doors swing off their hinges and paintings fall off the walls, or corpses turn out not to be dead, and a fiancée is anything but faithful to her groom, still the actors carry on and strive to stay in character.
But as ingenious as the storyline of Wrong may be, (it being about a play within a play and the lines between them being blurred continually) what’s most amusing about the show is watching the actors’ characters cope with all the mishaps that befall them in the play.
Take the problem of props, for instance. As simple as a key or a notebook getting misplaced on stage, and the actors had to shift quickly into high gear, pretending that a vase filled with plastic flowers could stand in for a key.
Now one might think that only a thespian could understand how realistic such problems could be.
But you didn’t need to be a theatre buff to appreciate how actors adjusted to the oddities they were confronted with in this play.
One oddity was the way Florence (Davina Leonard) kept getting clobbered by doors and passing out.
The characters had to cope with whoever stepped into her part. Initially, it was the backstage hand Annie (Nixsha Shah). But then, she too gets knocked out by another serendipitous circumstance.
Then Trevor (Adarsh Shah), the sound man had to step in to play the diva.
It's fascinating to see how actors can play total idiots and adapt to major mishaps. But that’s what Davina’s character Florence had to do when she gets hit so hard by a heavy door that she’s left ‘unconscious’ on stage.
She’s meant to be off so all the men had to ‘discretely’ lift her limp body off stage via a back window.
But their discretion gets befuddled by the fallen curtain that should have concealed the supposedly ‘covert’ operation of retrieving her body.
It was hilarious to watch and one had to admire Davina’s capacity to be handled like a sack of potatoes. But it was one of the high points of outrageous humour in the show.
But the one whose physical comedy made me laugh myself to tears was Yafesi Musoke.
First was when, in order to save himself from tumbling down when the upstairs study collapsed, he had to struggle as if he was swimming breast-stroke upstream against a heavy tide.
And as awkward as his efforts appeared, they also held us in suspense: would he make it or not?
Then, the other moment when he stole the show was when Charles (Vikash Pattni), the former ‘corpse’ rose up to declare why he’d pretended to be dead, and in the process, shoots Yafesi’s character Thomas whose dying moments are deliriously funny.
Finally, a nod of appreciation to Amar for his marvellous masterpiece of a set. Congratulations too for the impeccable sound and lighting, all of which ensured the show would go wrong, which was just right for Aperture.