In the first place, it was money that caused the trouble, first for Nick Kwach’s gang who had staged a robbery, but then the cash got “lost” when one gang member carrying it got caught in the Oakwood Hotel. He was not caught with the cash so the gang assumes it got stashed somewhere in the hotel, which is why they go to the trouble of coming to Naivasha, to look for “their” money.
But there’s double trouble at the hotel, where Cyprian Osoro is the owner and bully-in-chief who brutally picks on the cleaner, Edna, (played with wonderful deadpan wit by Mackrine Andala). He rants ceaselessly except when his youthful wife Nora (Bernice Nthenya) wakes up at noon. He plays passive while she flirts mercilessly with the guests, including the three genial thieves, who are on their exploratory mission.
Everything about the Oakwood is “troublesome’’. Oakwood sounds a lot like awkward, which is a perfect term to describe what transpires at the hotel: There’s the bullying boss with his inflated sense of his hotel’s excellence, the nonsensical noise that he inflicts on the maid he pays poorly and overworks and his wife’s concept of ‘“customer service” which goes way beyond warm and ‘friendly’.
But it’s Mackrine as the maid Edna whose performance steals the show. She plays the obsequious servant to her boss but comes out in her true colours when she blasts her peers for their presumptions.
But the awkwardness of the Oakwood is most emphatically revealed as the undercover cop (Adelyne Wairimu) asks about all the facilities promised on the hotel’s website which are nowhere to be found. Not the horseback riding or the game drive or even the brunch!! Edna concedes there’s only rice and beans to eat.
How then, we wonder, can Caleb go for a hearty meal with the boss if the cleaner-cook says there’s no food?
This is just one of several incongruities in Heartstrings “Double Trouble” which lead me to suggest that there’s another reason the title of the play is apt. It’s because the show seemed under-rehearsed and slightly contrived.
Comedy can be contrived, for sure. The incongruities can also contribute to the humour. But then, when facts in the storyline contradict one another, the comedy gets confused.
The other big question I had relates to the convict Ambasa (Mark Otieno) who was sprung from jail by Vitalis (Victor Nyaata) so he could lead his fellow gang members to the cash.
But if one takes Ambasa at his word, he’s not the Ambasa the gang is looking for. He claims there were two men of the same name in the jail, and he’s not the one they are looking for. Yet how could the other gang members not know what the real Ambasa looks like?
The rest of the play works only if you believe Ambasa was lying to Vitalis when he claimed he was not the one they were looking for. That’s because Caleb has no trouble threatening his fellow gangster Ambasa if he doesn’t find them the cash.
But then if this Ambasa is the gangster, one imagines he should know exactly where he stashed the cash. But this convict doesn’t seem to know. That’s how he ends up in Nora’s bedroom: he is looking for the money, but he’s uncertain whether that is where it is stashed.
When the supposedly stashed bag is finally found, it’s anti-climactic when we see that the bag is filled with used mitumba clothes.
But the final confusion is what happens with the cop and the crooks? We only surmise, after the fact, that the reason she had stayed at this awkward excuse for a hotel is because it’s a stakeout. She is apparently waiting for the gang to show up, just as they did. But then, what happens when the “stash” turns out to be second-hand clothes? She now has no grounds to arrest the thieves, so she and the audience are left hanging.
Heartstrings has a habit of spinning good stories but then ending them in mid-air.
Until they change that style, fans seem to be satisfied with it. But maybe they’re not.