Stranger in my Bed is a heartbreaking one-woman play by the well-achieved Zipporah Okoth. It is extensively based on her life story.
It focuses on domestic abuse. Despite its being a monologue, the play remains engaging throughout. The protagonist’s story comes alive on stage and you see all the absent characters in Zippy’s excellent impersonation of them.
The isolation also gives a sense of her claustrophobic life, and the loneliness, which engulfed her while she was in the abusive relationship. Zippy weaves in humour in a genius way to make the story more bearable.
While the play draws a lot of strengths from its being based on a true story, it also suffers a slip in believability. Over and over, Zippy stays in this relationship after the main villain, a military man called Ricky Jasuba, beats her.
While that is inarguably a reality for many victims of abuse, the script could have done more to communicate the circumstances of these to the audience.
In one of the most harrowing and best-delivered scenes, Zippy beats a cushion while narrating how Ricky beats and then rapes her while she is unresponsive.
After his apology, which Zippy mocks marvellously in a sing-song way, she immediately says, “I owe it to myself to try save my marriage.” The audience’s questioning murmurs grow into a full-blown “What?”
Sections such as the political commentary where Zippy explores “what ails our country” could be excluded and exchanged for a chance to understand Zippy more and her relationship with Ricky.
The househelp remains unnamed yet many minor characters are named. She might help in understanding Zippy even in the moments when the protagonist cannot claim self awareness.
Zippy says upon meeting she and Ricky discussed their interests, dreams and hobbies and then moved on to more interesting conversations, referencing sex. However, exploring what these conversations were about might give a sense of what is magnetic about him.
Zippy exudes a faux strength and when she exposes her vulnerability, it is unforgettable. For instance, the first time she tells the audience that Ricky slapped her, she follows it urgently by a refrain she repeats throughout the play: “Don’t do that. Don’t look at me like that.”
The play ends on a cliff-hanger because Zippy agrees to visit an ailing Ricky in hospital even if she has left him. While we cannot know what to expect in August’s Part 2, what is certain is it will not be short of drama, amazing acting and some good laughs.