Fanaka Arts Theatre only presents vernacular plays like the one they produced last weekend.
Staged before a full house at Alliance Francaise, Cokia Thiinii, is a comedy about corruption and the extremes people will go to, just so they can cover their tracks.
Even humble peasants like Wangechi (Mercy Thairu), the househelp can get caught up in it. She is even deemed an “accessory” to a crime once the drug dealing of her boss, the MP Gitahi (Maina Ndambiri) gets discovered by his straight-arrow lawyer wife Jane (Maryanne Nyamburu, who also co-directed the show with Mercy Thairu).
Cokia Thiini makes fun of corruption, but by exposing its reality, it is revealed to be just like a plague that can infect and bring down anyone. That includes everyone from the boss’s cheeky driver Joram (Njomo Nyathira) to his office supervisor Agnes (Shiru Kiarie), and especially to Jane’s old friend Wariara (Wangari Nguri) who is in cahoots with Gitahi, the spouse that Jane vows not to spare once she sees what has been happening in her home while she was away.
Jane had left the country to start her law practice elsewhere since she could not stand the extent to which corruption had seemingly seeped into every nook and cranny of the society. Returning home for a visit, she is initially no wiser since everyone is prepared to cover up their dirty deals.
But then when a comedy of errors occurs that goes beyond Gitahi’s or anyone’s control, it does not take long for Jane to catch on and quickly declare the jig is up.
The first thing that falls apart is Gitahi and Wariara’s drug deal. That occurs when the maid accidentally picks up the boss’s bag, thinking it belongs to the returning wife. Not knowing what is inside, she tosses it over the fence to retrieve later. But somehow it disappears, picked up by the escaped convict Kanyi (Charles Maina) who Gitahi had scapegoated and got thrown into jail as a convenient means to cover up his own crime.
The other thing that hastens the MP’s downfall is the arrival of Kanyi at his home. The convict has escaped from “Kamiti Prison” so he can come back to Gitahi with a gun and demand restitution. He wants money an air ticket out of the country.
Kanyi believes his only crime had been to be poor and to want to get rich quick. He applied for and got a government tender. But he had no cash to cover the fees required. When he goes to Gitahi for a loan, that is when his vulnerability makes him easy prey for a shark like the MP.
But Kanyi does not get what he has come home to collect. Once Jane arrives, there is a mad scramble to make everything look normal. Kanyi is made the “new cook” and financee to Aggie, who in the play is a sister not a bride-to-be.
Ultimately, it is Kanyi’s cookery that literally explodes in his face and raises eye-popping suspicion on Jane’s part. After that, the ruse unravels and Jane’s appalled to find the cancerous corruption having invaded her own house.
Her reaction is refreshing since she clearly takes a firm stand against the immorality and illegality that she now sees with clear eyes. She embodies the sort of ethical position that many Kenyans wish they could see manifest among people in positions of authority.
Jane does nOt just charge everyone as accessories to Gitahi’s crimes—she vows to see they get convicted and then sent to jail. Perhaps Kanyi will get a reprieve, but it looks unlikely since he too played along with those trying to cover up their dirty deals.
Cokia Thiini kept the audience in stitches from the outset, thanks to the cheeky, and slightly salacious banter that went on between Joram the driver and Wangechi the maid. They set the stage for the story to unfold seamlessly. And with a cast that was fully conversant with their roles and a story that had multiple twists and turns, one has to say that Fanaka Arts has a few things in common with Heartstrings Entertainment.
Both companies have seasoned casts with chemistry and charisma that derive, in part, from the way they operate.