Art

KU students showcase their mentor’s musical play

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Members of Kenyatta University Travelling Theatre on stage. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Contract Love’, staged last weekend at Kenya Cultural Centre by Kenyatta University students, is a play by Zippy Okoth that is one-part musical, one-part messy love story, and one-part murder thriller.
  • It’s got an interesting storyline, mirroring the plight of many school-leavers; the problem is finding a job to put bread on the table.

Contract Love’, staged last weekend at Kenya Cultural Centre by Kenyatta University students, is a play by Zippy Okoth that is one-part musical, one-part messy love story, and one-part murder thriller.

It’s got an interesting storyline, mirroring the plight of many school-leavers; the problem is finding a job to put bread on the table.

Leave alone getting a senior position or a hefty wage. Anita (Judy Nyakio) is prepared to take any sort of work. She’s had to postpone completing her law course, the times are that tough.

Her sweetheart Tom (Andy Joseph) finds her employment as house-help to his uncle, Chris (Samson Adino). As humiliating as the suggestion might be, she agrees to take the job.

As it turns out Chris, a business tycoon, has a terminal disease, and behaves like grumpy old man. But Anita’s prepared to put up with anything, so long as she gets paid.

In the course of six months, Chris’s health improves dramatically. Meanwhile, his business partner Harry (Jeff Opondo Omondi) wants to swindle Chris out of company leadership. He enlists Tom and tries to get Anita involved too.

But she and Chris have already pledged undying love. What’s more, she warns Chris about the company contract that Harry has drawn up.

But before the contract gets contested, Harry panics and the rest is a bloody mess, apart from Anita’s reunion with her old beau Tom.

It’s a story with so many twists and turns that it could have been a gripping show. Director Peter Oroto had assembled a number of excellent actors. The problem was that they needed at least another week of rehearsals.

In that time, Oroto could have gotten his vocalists singing on key. He had a range of excellent voices, but they needed to take the tuning of their vocal cords more seriously,

Also, during that extra rehearsal time, the scene changes could have gotten tighter so the action from scene to scene could flow without the long lapses of darkness or silence that we witnessed last Sunday afternoon.

For instance, when the narrator told us the show would begin: ‘3-2-1’ and boom! Nothing happened except that in the dark, we could hear feet shuffling, chairs banging, and we wondered: Is the noise meant to be part of the show? It’s not.

The opening scene is in a night club where there’s an open mic, and Tom sings Anita a love song.

The amorous hug that follows is meant to convince us that theirs is true love. But then, once she goes to work for grumpy Chris, we don’t hear or see him again for six months.

It’s during that time, apparently that Tom has been quietly corrupted and caught stealing cash from his uncle.

Apparently, only Harry knows about it and plans to use that knowledge to blackmail Tom into helping him convince Chris to sign a new contract which would leave his company shares to him.

Tom (like Anita) has legal skills, and Chris counts on him as his legal advisor. Chris paid Tom’s school fees all the way through law school, so Tom’s loyalty is being sorely tested.

He agonizes not only because he lost Anita carelessly, but also because he doesn’t want to betray his uncle.

Harry detects his ambivalence and beats him up badly to convince him his life is on the line.

Before the story ends, there are two fatal shootings. But that’s the much of a spoiler I will be. The two gunshots are swift, efficient, and quite final. But they make the ending too easy, and also incomplete.

For instance, we don’t know what happens to the contract that Chris did or did not sign. If signed, would it be binding? What sort of impact would it have on Anita and the others left behind?

There is so much about Contract Love that is intriguing and endearing. For instance, the impact that Anita’s presence had on the health of that lonely unwell bachelor is impressive.

It’s also touching that both Chris and Anita have great news to share just moments before catastrophe hits in the form of Harry’s murderous money grab.

But the fact that the show ends with one last shot and the pregnant heroine Anita rushing back into the arms of her gun-totting old boyfriend Tom is a bit too Hollywood Wild Western style for me.

One word of advice: never take opinions of media critics too seriously! It’s not worth it.