Art

Trilateral attempt to tackle various topics is entangled

theatre

A scene in Trilateral play at the Kenya National Theatre in Nairobi last weekend. PHOTO | MARGARETA WA GACHERU | NMG

margarettawagacheru_img

Summary

  • Their scriptwriter Adeti Mahaga is particularly ambitious because she also directed and produced this emotional drama.
  • The revelation at the play’s end also allows us to make more sense as to why the trio are all suicidal.
  • The beauty of the play is that all the themes are revealed as these characters, apparently total strangers, tell their respective stories.

Nyakagwa Mahaga is a courageous, young theatre group that staged their second production, titled Trilateral, last weekend at the Kenya National Theatre’s Ukumbi Mdogo.

Their scriptwriter Adeti Mahaga is particularly ambitious because she also directed and produced this emotional drama. She also tried to address so many hot topics in her script that it was a bit challenging to disentangle them to see which themes were the most critical.

Only at the end of the play does the underlying issue come to light. It not only illuminated the title of the play, ‘Trilateral’ meaning ‘involving three parties’, the three characters in the play who we have no idea until the very end that their ‘association’ is far more intimate than is initially apparent.

The revelation at the play’s end also allows us to make more sense as to why the trio are all suicidal. There’s no clarity as to how they end up in a place where a hangman’s noose has conveniently been hung. All we learn is that Falcon (Smollo Andrew) is the one who hung the noose with the intent of finishing his life.

Then we meet Phoenix (Sonia Kahura), a young blind woman who has been badly abused all her life by her mother and also feels it’s time to end things.

Finally, there’s Maua (Julie Nasuju), who initially comes out looking cheeky and slightly over-sexed. But then, she suddenly paints her face with white patches. It doesn’t take long to learn what the ‘white face’ (as opposed to black face) means.

But now she has a different story from the pre-face-whitened girl. It’s not clear how the patchy-faced person (who has a skin disease called vitiligo) can be the same girl we originally meet. What is clear is that her condition is a factor in her feeling suicidal. What is also clear is that Maua, like Falcon, had her heart broken.

In her case, the heartbreaker seduced and violated her when she was still an innocent young girl. His abuse of her also plays a part in her going for the noose and even fighting with Falcon to be first in line to use the rope.

Suicide and mental health are one theme of Mahaga’s play. But there are several others, including issues associated with disability (Phoenix’s blindness and Maua’s skin disease), unrequited love, gratuitous sex, abandonment and adoption, and last but not least, incest.

The beauty of the play is that all the themes are revealed as these characters, apparently total strangers, tell their respective stories. And as far as suicide is concerned, the issue is practically forgotten as they tell each other their emotional (and sometimes sexually-charged) stories.

First comes Falcon who wants to die because his future with the woman he loves, Rosie, has been blocked by Rosie’s mum. Then in Shakespearean style, Rosie commits suicide, leaving her lover to now try to follow suit. But before he can do it, he gets attracted to Phoenix who is blind but still seductive.

The scene where they practically have sex on stage is saved by Maua who interrupts this slightly uncomfortable and nearly pornographic moment. Ironically, Maua also wants to talk about her sexual exploits which include her disillusionment after her first sexual encounter with some anonymous man.

It would seem that all the sexual language and provocative behavior in the play has significance related to how their lives are intertwined.

What made the play a challenge to watch was the frequent moments of inaudibility of some of the actors who hadn’t been well coached in vocal projection. They were too soft-spoken to the detriment of understanding the script.

As it turns out, everything hinged on a crumpled letter that Maua is carrying. It’s not clear who wrote it or how she got it. But when the other two read it (yes, even the ‘blind’ Phoenix ‘reads’), they go bananas.

And understandably so since they are hearing for the first time that they are triples, born to the woman that Phoenix calls her mother.