Art

Kigondu locks in our hearts and minds in ‘Supernova’

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Martin Kigondu in a past act. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Martin Kigondu is best known for being a brilliant playwright, producer, and director of plays like ‘What happens in the night’, ‘Who’s your daddy?’, and others.
  • If you aren’t a student of astronomy, you wouldn’t know the title of his play and the phenomenon it represents are metaphors for what transpires in this happy-go-lucky guy’s personal life.

Martin Kigondu is best known for being a brilliant playwright, producer, and director of plays like ‘What happens in the night’, ‘Who’s your daddy?’, and others presented under the umbrella of Prevail Arts, now Prevail Presents.

Having personally kept out of the limelight for the past few years, apart from his appearance in films like Contained, the public might not recall Martin’s prowess as an actor in his own right.

But that oversight was quickly rectified last Monday when he staged his first solo performance in years, entitled Supernova at the Kenya Cultural Centre.

It was a dazzling performance in which Franklin Murumbi came alive as a character who witnesses his own supernova experience, both in his own life and in the life of his child Celestine.

If you aren’t a student of astronomy, you wouldn’t know the title of his play and the phenomenon it represents are metaphors for what transpires in this happy-go-lucky guy’s personal life. I probably shouldn’t say what that means, that is, if I don’t want to be a spoiler.

But it’s impossible not to talk about what happens to Frank and his child after his wife Eve walks out on them both.

The reality is that Martin has engaged us so totally in the first moments of the show that we’re rivetted to his every move, from his dressing up and sipping coffee to listening with him as he proudly presents his morning radio show.

Martin manages to make us as elated as he is as he recounts his lucky stars: how he’s been promoted to get his own radio show, how his wife is in her eighth month awaiting the birth of their child, and how his dad has been a rock reliably advising him that when all else fails, one has his cultural convictions to fall back on.

But Frank also hints that Eve has stopped talking to him, so he hangs out more with his friends, probably exacerbating his problems all the more. We never find out what Eve’s problem is with her spouse, or why she walks out on him and their newborn.

We never hear her side of the story. He only receives word from her mother Janet, the same mama who caught them snuggling naked in Eve’s dorm room at university.

Martin makes us feel we are right there with him throughout this riveting play. Even when he portrays the Roman Catholic priest who snubs Frank at Celestine’s memorial service, we find the priest totally believable in his pseudo-piety.

His eulogy doesn’t make Frank feel any better. On the contrary, he is deeply offended for being forgotten throughout the service.

What’s worse is when he finally explodes (even as supernovas do), the ferocity of his fight to find out how and why his daughter died is handled with impunity. He’s literally tossed out of Janet’s home as if he were a vagrant, not the father of Celestine.

Frank’s cascading into depression is rapid after that. He does make a brief stop at his dad’s upcountry home. And it is here that we see the genuine genius of the actor.

For me, Martin is initially unrecognisable as he morphs into an old man whose face has fully changed as has his voice and his walk. But once again, we were transfixed by the old man who now loves his marijuana ‘weed’ and easily shares his concern over his son’s mental health with us.

Frank’s visit with his dad in Nyeri is brief. But it’s long enough for the dad to see the spark of hope has disappeared from his son’s eyes.

Frank gets back to his job in town but prepares to move back into a bed-sitter now that both Eve and Celestine are gone. It’s only now that he defines the meaning of a supernova. It’s a star which, for some internal reason, grows exceedingly bright just as it explodes and then disappears into a black hole.

Now that is what we witness in the life of Frank Murumbi as the happy-go-lucky guy descends into his own black hole. The play ends with our man in anguish and tears as he admits he once told Eve he never wanted that child. But surprisingly, he'd fall in love with her, only to lose her.

I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t believe Martin’s show ended as it did. But Frank disappears into his own black hole. And we say Bravo! Kigondu gave a masterful performance.