Dr Zippy Okoth does something that few, if any other Kenyan woman can do. And that is to promote herself.
There is a line in her latest solo show, Zanzi Madness, which she performed last Friday night at Kenya National Theatre that reflects what she also desires.
It went something like “I don’t want to be a star in my lifetime; I want to be an immortal legend.”
More women today than ever before aim to be successful in a male-dominated world. But few would proclaim that aspiration so publicly. Her frank honesty alone makes her special.
Zippy is shameless about her passion for self-promotion. She’s outspoken and fearless about telling the truth about her life experiences.
So much so that they become the focus and content of all of her solo performances. It is for that honesty and courage that I admire her so much.
I also loved her latest autobiographical account of her first trip to Zanzibar, irrespective of any shortcomings in the show, and there were some.
Like starting her show holding cue cards, as if we were going to see a dress rehearsal rather than a professional production.
But then the cards could also be seen as props used to break down that wall between the audience and the actor.
In fact, one of the first things she tells us is that she’s not just an actor, she is a storyteller, giving her the freedom to narrate as well as reenact her life.
But here is where I feel she fell short slightly. She is an inspired storyteller, highly animated and energised. What’s more, she introduces us to a wide cast of fascinating characters during her nine-day stay at this enchanting place.
She has an official role as a judge at some (probably the Zanzi film fest). But unofficially, she is there to find the man of her dreams, her forever soul mate.
That is why she buys a condom, much to the chagrin of the female saleslady who is shocked by her brazen buying. But she is shocked at the high price of condoms, especially as they used to be free and now cost Sh400.
But she figures, better to be safe than sorry. She already has two girls and doesn’t need another. But she does need a man to foot the school fees to enable her daughters to go to the best schools, which most women won’t admit.
Zippy meets any number of candidates, all of whom never quite fit the bill. There’s the one who calls her ‘Chocolate Beauty’, one she calls ‘Big Eyes’ because every time they meet, she feels he undresses her in his head.
There’s Hamus the chef who she proposes to because she loves his food so much. Of course, she is joking and the show is all about her having a wildly entertaining time.
So entertaining that she’s told on the last night to be the ‘entertainment’ during the festival’s gala dinner. Since that’s what she does, by definition, she has no problem with it. But she is still sad that she didn’t find Mr Right.
She had also met an old white man who entertained her for an evening and even stayed the night at her hotel. But apparently, he slept on the sofa. But we never got the details.
And that is the problem with the show. Not the need to know about her sex life. But she’s happy to tell us before we ask. At one point she admits, she “needs sex” and to prove it, she reveals she still has the packaged condom.
The problem I had with Zippy is that she could have given us more storytelling not less. For instance, she could have fleshed out the other characters, especially the men that she checked out to see if they might be Mr Right.
They weren’t, but as a storyteller, she could have given us a more in-depth perspective on the quirky characters who crossed her path. Instead, she sought to cover them all superficially, but she needed to give more time to presenting them with more nuance, insight and detail.
For instance, what happened to 'Big Eyes' and the 'Chocolate Beauty' man, and the guy who looked like a cross between Kenny Rogers and Trump, and so many others?
The problem wasn’t what she gave. It was that she didn’t give us enough. So, carry on being ambitious and gifted, but dig deeper for the sake of the stories you share.