Money the conundrum that corrupts


Cast and crew of Conundrum Drum at Kenya Cultural Centre, February 4, 2023. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

Conundrum drum’ is all about the fragility of human relationships in these times. It puts a sharp focus on the way money has become the deciding factor affecting the way ties are made or broken, even ties that once were binding for life.

Now it seems friends are fickle and ever-prone to betrayal.

At least those are the messages that came through in the script showcased by Wreiner Mandu and his Igiza Arts team early last year. But he took his script back to the drawing board, made certain revisions and brought a better version back to Ukumbi Mdogo last weekend.

That was a wise idea on the playwright’s part since the show we saw last Saturday was a memorable affair. That is, apart from the fact that little attention was given to set design.

There were tables and chairs that got switched around every scene. Otherwise, it looked like bedsheets were used to block out the backstage, not to create an effect, like possibly a white wall.

Be that as it may, Wreiner, who served as a playwright, producer, and director of his show, got the best out of his cast. That was especially true of Nawalovu (Venesa Gichio), the CEO who played the villain impeccably. She was seductive, manipulative, and malevolent all at once.

 She was a cougar who wanted more than one younger man in her life. She shamelessly had two, one her driver (Julius Sigu), the other her new assistant who she instantly put in charge of her whole operation.

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Chantel Moraa with her 'parents' in Igiza's Conundrum Drum at Ukumbi Mdogo, February 4, 2023. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

She made no inquiries into their past or present circumstance. For instance, she didn’t know her driver had a wife and child (Chantel Moraa). When she found out, she threw them out of her life.

And when she found out her other lover, Zilele (Javan Barasa) was having an affair behind her back with the young woman Zillah (Faith Kerimi) whom she had hired to ‘marry’ her son Kecha (Kithia Kennedy), she threw both of them out too.

Meanwhile, she also mistreated the man she was still married to, Spohuze (Jeff Odhiambo). She threw him out of her bed apparently after he’d lost his job and was now penniless.

It was also after he’d put her through school, helping her to become a professional leader such as the woman we met at the outset of the play.

Sobhuze told the wife of Kecha, Azawi (Grace Lisa Odhiambo) that Nawalovu had not always been the self-serving power broker that she has become. She had once been a loving, humble, and kind human being.

But then she got out of school and got a job. Soon after that he lost his job, and she turned into a different woman from the one he had fallen in love with.

At the outset of the play, Nawalovu calls in her spouse, son and his wife, all of whom are jobless. Now that she has a successful talent scout company of her own, she decides to hire all three of them.

So her legal husband gets to watch as she abuses her son’s wife Azawi and undermines their marriage. She belittles her so badly that the only person Awazi can count on for moral support is Sobhuze.

Nawalovu is the embodiment of Wreiner’s message. As she acquires more wealth and thus more power, she changes and becomes this money-minded monster who keeps people who were once ‘family’ as if they are her slaves. They are tied to the CEO by the slave wages that she pays them.

The other star character in Wreiner’s play, for me, is Sobhuze, the separated spouse who was humiliated every day by his wife Nawalovu. He learned early on to stay cool and impervious to her mental abuses to him.

He had even owned land which he’d bought. But as he had wanted everything shared between them, he now sees the folly of that trust.

“I bought land, putting her name on the title deed,” he told Azawi. But now she won’t share it since it had become part of her power-base and source of prestige.

But Sobhauze ultimately reaps his reward. He’d fallen in love with Kecha’s wife who had been as humiliated by Nawalovu as he had been. Kecha mirrored his mama and had been insulting towards Azawi as well.

The driver’s little girl, played by Shantel Moraa, is also a star in Wreiner’s play. But ultimately, it’s the writer-director who deserves the most praise for listening to feedback and responding with sensitivity and insight.

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