Who’s who in Kenyan theatreMonday February 06 2023
It was the ‘who’s who’ of Kenyan theatre last weekend at Kenya National Theatre, but not in the sense of seeing celebrities and the super-rich on the red carpet.
It was more like seeing Crony Productions’ “Whose wife are you?” on KNT’s main stage and Too Funny Entertainment’s ‘Who’s Your Daddy? at Ukumbi Mdogo across the way. (The ‘Daddy’ script has nothing to do with the original ‘Who’s your Daddy?’ written and produced by Martin Kigondu. We wonder whether Martin copyrighted his play, and if so, what next?)
But apart from the who’s who titles, the two plays have little in common, except that both revolve around marital issues and betrayal, and both have a problem with the editing of their scripts.
That’s to say, both shows dragged on for more or less two hours when both stories could have been told in half the time.
Again, there was a qualitative difference between Crony’s characters’ inclination to extend their joke time longer than necessary.
For instance, Desmond (Osoro Cyprian), the gardener came back to work after 42 days away and begged too long to get his job back. His pleas were pathetically funny, but still went on too long.
Wakili (Victor Nyaata) was hilarious; however, his monologue-like phone conversation could have been easily shortened. So could his opening exercise scene.
It was finally the jail scene when Wakili meets his client, Elvis (Humphrey Maina) that a few of the jigsaw puzzle pieces fall into place.
In fact, Elvis is a pivot character in the show, especially when the prison warder (Nick Kwach) tells him he’s a free man because the judge dropped all the charges.
It’s the opposite of what Victor told him, so the plot thickens and the suspense builds. This is when the play gets interesting.
The last scene is the most intriguing, yet I feel Crony could have dropped one or two clues before Elvis comes home. He takes a while to wake up to his betrayal by his wife, Grace (Marion Wambui) and former best friend, Wakili. He has to go to his former bedroom and find the missing file that contains all the documents required to prove his innocence.
Victor apparently had them all along. He also apparently hooked up with Grace, having married her while keeping Elvis stranded in jail for the rest of his life.
Fortunately for Elvis, their plan didn’t work. But Crony’s did. Thus, the final line of the play made sense: Whose wife are you? And everything fell into place.
Then there’s ‘Who’s your daddy?’ It’s another story altogether. One can’t help asking, why Too Funny Productions used the title of a well-known Kenyan play, especially when it isn’t really relevant to the story?
Then there’s the issue of noise. People were shouting and fighting literally from the moment the play opened.
The lady of the house, Mama Natalie (Diana Kamau), was chasing her house-helper, Jennifer (Margaret Njeri) for not doing her job. But again, the chase went on too long. And why beat the maid?
The inanity of the issue turned into pathos when we found Natalie (Purity Mueni), the daughter was just as loud and abusive of the maid as her mom.
Then when the so-called village ‘elders’ arrived, the bullying continued, only now, it was the elders bullying Mama Natalie. This turned into a sort of slapstick comedy.
However, since the subject uppermost in the Mama’s mind was negotiating over her daughter’s dowry, that didn’t get settled until the fiancé Maxwell (Benjamin Veke) arrives on the scene and paid the mom’s asking price of USD10,000.
We learn nothing about this guy nor about any of these characters. The show is dominated by ignorant old men behaving badly.
What’s even more preposterous about this play is that we suddenly learn the wedding is supposed to take place the following day.
How can this be, especially when the bride price hadn’t been paid (until the last minute) and the so-called wedding planner (Joseph Nderitu) and his wife (Faith Ngundi) had already been paid half a million shillings.
Yet the mama hadn’t followed her money to ensure the guy had carried out her wishes.
But now as he suddenly shows up at the last minute, she doesn’t have a clue that her money has been swallowed by the same fellow.
The final absurdity is when the fiancé shows up having married Jennifer overnight. What happened? If this was Maxwell’s intent, then why did he pay the dowry? Where’s the logic?
Anyway, it’s good to see the theatre coming alive again in 2023.
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