Arts

Explosive politics split a close-knit family

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(R-L) Anne Kamau, Adelyne Wairimu and Paul Ogola star in Heartstrings' Good for nothing. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

With One Size Fits, All Heartstrings Players didn’t just give us an ironic title for their latest comedy, given the divisive nature of political parties in families today.

They also gave us one of the most unanticipated endings that we have seen in a long time. The last words of many Heartstring plays are punchy and surprising.

But in this case, the final revelation was so unexpected, that my jaw literally dropped with what the brother (Tim Drissi) of Mama Sylvia aka Janet (Bernice Nthenya) had to expose.

What made that final twist even more explosive was the fact that emotions were already running high and getting hotter before Tim’s one-liner broke open the mystery that no one even knew about until a few moments before.

Storytelling by Heartstrings is almost always a collective creation. It comes together apparently by magic and usually works well. Cast members pick up the gist of what to say, not by having a script typed out in detail. It is more by virtue of the creative process being so memorable that the actors can’t forget their lines, however improvised.

But One Size Fits All didn’t ramble. Of course, there was the impulsive uncle of Sylvia (Adelyne Wairimu) who is prone to loud outbursts of unsolicited opinion. But he’s a loveable fellow and adores Janet’s only child. So does her dad (Paul Ogola) who is so devoted to her, he’s been known to weep for joy at her graduation ceremonies.

The eventful day that much of the play takes place in is filled with anticipation as Sylvia’s fiancé, Jared (Pascal Otieno) is coming to meet her parents. Of course, he can never be ‘good enough’ for Paul’s daughter.

And her dad’s brother Marko (Lawrence Murage) can easily make matters more difficult for the lad since he seems to delight in being a bully. Marko came over as family and to see if he feels Jared is ‘worthy’ to be part of it.

But he also comes to harangue his humble son Junior (Fischer Maina) who is at odds with his dad regarding his career and study plan.

Central theme

Junior wants to study cosmetology, a course his dad poo-poos as manicures and cutex polish, not a manly topic like computer science. Dad is on the attack against the millennial generation for their obsession with issues like mental health and depression, and social media as a useful preoccupation.

He lampoons young people like his son for thinking they have it rough in life but haven’t a clue what roughness is.

Janet tries to intervene on behalf of Junior who looks meek and humble until the issue of politics comes up. Then we see the central theme of the play, which is the divisive nature of today’s political scene and how it threatens to tear families apart over people’s intolerance of differing opinions.

Once the topic crops up, and Janet and Junior don’t fall in line with Paul, we see all hell break loose. It’s just starting to get hot when Jared shows up and meets the brunt of misunderstanding which is fueled in a major way by Marko.

Nonetheless, Jared sticks around to see how ugly and poisonous political differences can get. The anger between Janet and Paul becomes so volatile that she finally proclaims a fact that is unbearably hurtful to Paul.

Marko quickly picks up on Paul’s pain and throws Tim out of Paul’s house. Janet has already said she was leaving him, though she wants to retract that statement as well as the painful one that followed it.

This play was long but nobody moved until we found out how the story ended. It finally did, in a courtroom where they were there over the property. Marko was pushing for Paul to get everything, and the court ruled that way.

But once the judge asked Sylvia to speak, she gave a moving acknowledgment of her dad, saying that whether she had Paul’s blood or not, he was still her dad and she adored him.

Janet then spoke and explained why she had to use a surrogate to give Paul a child. The shocker, finally, came when Tim disclosed exactly who that surrogate was.

I won’t tell since I want Heartstrings to bring the playback and talk more about Esther Kahuha’s comic return to the group as a pleasure to see.

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