Never has this girl seen a more despicably sexist play in Kenya than what she saw last Saturday night at Nairobi Cinema when Festival of Creative Arts (FCA) staged Trouble at Home.
It is hard to believe she sat all the way through it. But having hoped the cast might redeem itself in the end, she held on. FCA and its founder-producer Eliud Abuto had been out of action for more than two years, and fans of the group had eagerly awaiting its return. It was assumed the company would return presenting new and improved productions.
Instead, what we saw was that FCA has sunken to its lowest level yet. Not that the acting was bad. The actors were true to their low-life characters, mostly playing sleazy, corrupt politicians and prostitutes. But FCA apparently still has the habit of taking second or third-rate foreign scripts and supposedly adapting them to a local context.
In that respect, the script was relevant since it was about three corrupt Senators, two of whom (Johnson ‘Fish’ Chege and Ben Tekee) are seasoned politicians, one of whom, the Deputy Party Leader (Ben Tekee) is running for president and the younger one, Senator Olum (Kasuku Synyor), his nephew, is Chief Whip and his uncle’s sycophantic yes-man.
Olum barely blinks an eye when he discovers his uncle’s flagrant duplicity. For the DPL claims in public to stand for family values and high moral standards. In fact, he is just another philanderer who uses wedlock as a cover for his coterie of concubines, two of whom show up at his home immediately after his wife (Angela Waruinge) takes off for the coast.
One is a sex worker (Ivy Chiko) from the Agency that he calls as soon as his wife leaves. She has come to do her job and, upon finding the drunken Olum in the DPL’s sitting room, assumes he’s the one who called. It’s quite a scene when she struggles to drag the drunkard into the DPL’s bed. (That’s when several viewers walked out.)
It got even more licentious after the DPL shows up and the Agency girl complains her job is not done with Olum. “Only five times,” she laments since she says she can’t get paid until her job is done.
By now the second girlfriend, Veronica (Majuma Belle) has arrived and the DPL tries his best to not let her see the girl from the Agency.
To add to the chaos, the Senate Majority Leader (Fish) shows up apparently just to drink the DPL’s booze. He also provides a classic ‘old school’ sexist perspective on women. Being part of the DPL’s entourage, Fish plays the perfect Party man who, (like Kenya’s own politicians who refuse to pass the ‘gender justice’ bill) can’t imagine seeing women on equal footing with men in politics or in any other public sphere.
The play opens with the DPL announcing his candidacy for president, but during a brief Q&A session, one pesky journalist (Joey Kinyua) asks hard-hitting questions the candidate avoids, closing the session fast. The journalist is manhandled by Security (Isaboke Nyakundi), but she won’t be muzzled for long.
She sneaks into the DPL’s bedroom, hides under the bed and takes snaps of Olum with the Agency girl, assuming he’s the DPL. She manages to avoid getting caught again by security until after the wife’s unanticipated returns home. Then she tries to share her compromising photographs with her but the DPL manages to get her ousted from the house.
The wife’s plane was overbooked (sound familiar!) so she decided to come home. One might assume her arrival signals the end of the DPL’s game of ‘musical’ women. But no. He manages to get them all bundled out of his house with the assistance of Olum and Security.
In the end, the wife is no wiser and the message comes clear. It is that ‘crime does pay’, corrupt crooks and sexist Big Men can get away with whatever their lusty heart’s desires.
If the play is meant to provide a mirror-image of Kenyan politicians today, it could be said that Trouble at Home is an accurate reflection of how effectively corrupt politicians get away with scams, scandals and worse, without fearing the consequences.
But if one would like to believe the theatre has a role to play in educating and inspiring the public, then FCA’s show failed emphatically. It was demoralising to see how low a theatre company could go to reinforce a corrupt status quo.