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Art

‘Tinga Tinga Tales’ premiere sets the stage for thrilling theatre acts

Tinga Tinga Tales
Tortoise (Elsapan Njora) and Elephant (Ray Kibet) in Tinga Tinga Tales. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU 

Children may be the biggest beneficiaries of Tinga Tinga Tales the Musical since the dramatised version of these enchanting African folk tales are magical, as staged at Kenya National Theatre in Nairobi throughout September and which premiered last Friday night.

But the music and amazingly powerful Kenyan voices in the show will not only thrill children — whose schools get discounts if they come as a group. Adults are already finding the singing, acting and even the dancing of Tinga Tinga Tales soulful and spine-tingling.

All the original songs and musical scores by Kenya’s own Eric Wainaina don’t just mesmerise the children. The grown-ups are also dazzled by the quality, strength and bubbly beauty of the Tinga Tinga sound.

Some of Kenya’s top vocalists are in the cast including Atemi Oyungu, Karimi Rimbui Wamai, Nyokabi Macharia and Kendi Nkonge as well as Alvan Gatitu, Elsaphan Njora, Eddy Kimani, Ray Kibet and especially Wainaina himself.

If one treats himself to watching Tinga Tinga Tales the Musical, he’s bound to hear that this delicious Kenyan cast has ‘wowed’ US audiences once they hit the New Victory Theatre, in New York’s Broadway district next month.

Meanwhile, Now or Never, Heartstrings Entertainment’s latest comedy chronicles yet another familiar but awkward set of experiences related to social relations that drives home just how complicated personal relationships can be, especially in Kenya.

What’s familiar about the story of Solomon and Agnes’s falling out is the third party who keeps stepping in to try to tear their love apart.

The ex-boyfriend (Nick Kwach) David continues to buy Agnes flowers and lingerie. He even pays her house rent despite her having left him two years before.

Sol (Paul Ogola) is sensitive and hot-headed not only because he suspects Agnes (Keira Mokeira( is encouraging David by accepting his gifts. It’s also because he’s a jobless photojournalist who can’t provide her with all the things that David can.

So they quarrel. It gets loud, especially as Agnes has just spent the night out at a friend’s house. He accuses her of sleeping at David’s place. She takes serious offence, particularly because she’s pregnant with Sol’s child.

What’s also familiar is the way David underpays his house help Cyrus (Victor Nyaata) and bosses him about like a Big Man, as if Cyrus was a fool with no feelings, dignity or self-respect.

What’s not so familiar is Solomon’s contrition and his effort to apologise to Agnes. And what’s utterly inexplicable is how he ends up at David’s house, assuming he has arrived at the home of Agnes’s dad.

Where the story becomes seriously awkward (and amusing) is when Sol gets to David’s house and unknowingly treats Aggie’s ex-boyfriend like her dad.

David plays along with Sol’s false assumption such that we also don’t know who he is until Agnes arrives, and she has moments alone with her ex.

She’s outraged that David has pretended to play her dad but it’s too late to expose him since Agnes would have a hard time explaining why she’s in David’s house in the first place.= The charade is set on fire when David’s new girlfriend (Adelyne Wairimu) arrives drunk and blasts Agnes for being the third party in her relationship. But then when Sol sees David embracing the newbie, she’s introduced as Aggie’s mom.

The whole ruse falls apart when David’s messenger (Mark Otieno) arrives and identifies his boss. Before the scene explodes, the story ends abruptly.

But not before Agnes tells David off for thinking he could win her love with his wealth when what she wanted was sincere love and caring affection.

He had been incapable of sharing that since money and getting rich quick is his fulltime preoccupation. Solomon was poor but she loved him and he reciprocated.

In Kenya today, one wonders how many young women would share Agnes’s sentiment. It would seem many more would prefer a man with money or at least good prospects for earning.

The one guy who’s most conniving (and clever) is Cyrus. The cook made a “killing” by blackmailing everyone trying to keep a secret from Sol. That included Agnes as well as David. We also see the marvelous metamorphosis that comes over Cyrus once he gets cash in hand.

He is now able to speak his mind, tell off his ex-employer David, and walk away with more cash than he could have ever have made working for the local ‘Big Man’.

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