Churches have been the home base for many a Kenyan actor. It’s the place where many have got their start in theatre, staging shows about everyone from Daniel in the lions’ den to Queen Esther, both of whom had whole books written about them.
The Account: An Easter Musical, which was staged over the holiday weekend at the International Christian Centre, wasn’t specifically about a biblical character, not even Jesus Christ whose story of death and resurrection has to be one, if not the most dramatic stories in the ‘Good Book’.
But it was about similar issues, only set in a contemporary context, and made into a musical by Bethuel Lasoi who wrote both the lyrics and score. The music was well done under Chrispus Maina’s direction, although it would have been interesting to see the musicians, especially the soloist, Julie Njambi who sang so beautifully.
According to the show’s director, Ndaiga Waweru, The Account was adapted from the straight play, The Summoning of Everyman by Les Elison. It also bears resemblance to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in that it’s also about a wealthy, selfish man who’s confronted by death and made to look closely at his self-centred life and how he has consistently made heartless choices for which he is now meant the pay.
The premise is a Christian one, of course. It is that there are divine laws which one either obeys or does not. In that regard, God is seen as a sort of divine accountant who keeps track of everyone’s ‘balance’. Then on Judgment Day, it is said that He tallies up everyone’s account, after which you are assigned to go either to Heaven or Hell.
The Account’s protagonist is Everyman (Kimani Gichia) who resembles many a man that we know. He’s a proud fellow, proud of all his achievements- his university degree, many awards and his money. He’s an achiever but he’s not a very nice guy.
We don’t know much about him until Death (Yvonne Muranda) literally comes for him. What he learns quickly from her is that not only does he not have a pulse, but his ‘account’ is empty. The implication being that all his material achievements mean nothing in the account that is tracked by Death and by the divine Judge as well.
We’ve already seen how rude Everyman is to his annoying roommate (George Kitavi). But once he meets Death, he begs to be given a chance to augment his account by first going to his business interests, Goods (Stacy Wairimu) and Tenders (Stephen Gakuru), then to his sister (Sabina Ojil) and finally, to the attributes he assumes he still possesses, such as Knowledge (Sylvia Gichia), Strength (Nicole Githiri), Discretion (Peter Kitavi) and Wits (Wanjiru Mwangi). But all of them had nothing to give him. His sister is tempted to sacrifice herself for him in spite of his having forsaken his family and even walking out on the funeral of the father he’d despised.
So Everyman’s fate is apparently sealed. Death has called him and he has little choice but to accompany her. But then in the nick of time, Grace (Martin Abuya) arrives on the scene.
Wearing a magnificent white agbada. Grace is this powerful messenger who Christians claim is the divine gift given to God’s son Jesus when he’s empowered to overcome death. It’s basically the essence of resurrection that they celebrate at Easter.
Grace comes and reminds Everyman they had met once before, only he had forgotten about the gift after getting immersed in materialism and a me-first mentality.
Nonetheless, Grace offers Everyman a means of escaping death. It involves changing his ways completely and embarking on a new life. But before Everyman makes that final decision, the scene is transformed.
Suddenly, we are back at his flat and we discover, like Scrooge, he had been dreaming the whole time. But his dream has seemed so real that we are left assuming Everyman is going to change.
What’s interesting about this well-directed allegory is that Everyman isn’t portrayed as an ultra-greedy gangster or cruel crook. He looks more like a typical human being who puts his self-interests first and doesn’t really care who he hurts or leaves behind in to process.
In short, one need not be a Christian to get the message: that one’s behaviour has consequences. We are all accountable, by one means or another, whether we realise it or not.