Heartstrings Entertainment’s cast put on a ‘no holds barred’ performance of their latest comedy, Good for Nothing last Friday night at Alliance Francaise.
The ensemble shared an impressive rapport with one another, despite much of the dialogue having been loosely scripted and improvised, which tends to be Heartstrings’ style.
It worked well on Friday night. In fact, the comedy had many in the audience on the edge of their seats as we witnessed the crafty duplicity of the characters played by Paul Ogola, Adelyne Wairimu and Bernice Nthenge.
Ogola had a genius style of cheating on his wife Christina (Ann Kamau) while both university women (Wairimu and Bernice) also had duel identities, one for their parents, the other for their campus life in the fast line where they earn from travelling with married men and enjoying the high life.
As always, Heartstrings draws from real-life situations even as they put them together in ways that don’t just shed light on shadowy affairs like the one Thaddeus aka ‘Mr T’ (Ogola) is having with a young university woman who’s the same age as his daughter.
They also show the absurdity, not to mention the immorality of the lies, cheating and hedonism of both the girls and the old man. But the company never gets preachy when their shows expose the corruption and moral rot of Kenyan society. Nonetheless, there’s invariably a punch line at the end of their plays which knocks one’s socks off with the ferocity of the message and moral judgment that one cast member lets loose.
In this case, it is Ogola’s pious wife who seems to turn a blind eye when she arrives at her daughter’s dorm room and finds not Phoebe (aka Kimberly as she is known on campus) but her spouse playing around with Phoebe’s roommate Cinnamon who is having the affair with Mr T.
Phoebe is away when her mom finds her dad dressed in boxer shorts and wearing a hat having a playfully phallic rhino-like horn attached. But once she arrives at her room and finds her mother there, pretending she hasn’t seen her spouse half-naked cheating with her best friend, Phoebe loses it.
She breaks into a flaming tirade, blaming her (now former) best friend and her dad. But who also infuriates her is her mom who seems in denial of what is happening right before her eyes.
Actually, in the end it is Christina who speaks the most potent truths, challenging the young women for lashing out at each other, rather than seeing the wider picture.
In fact, Cinnamon also speaks truth when she challenges everyone who is blaming her, saying society itself had let her and other youth down for not having jobs available for them. Thus, young women have had to find means of making a living “by any means necessary”.
Yet Cinnamon also gets shot down by her own mom, the Zambian washer woman (Joan Arigi) who had never seen this side of her daughter. But even more than being morally appalled by her child, she is shocked at the disrespect and shame that Cinnamon openly shows her mother.
Ogola is wonderfully shameless playing the old man who is having a ‘second wind’ with a girl more than half his age. But ultimately, I can’t help applauding the powerful performances given by all the Heartstrings women.
All played wily resourceful women who are survivors who think strategically about how to make due in their lives. Arigi, the newest member of Heartstrings’ ensemble fit in brilliantly as the laundry lady who’d once had an affair with Thaddeus, although he had fled the moment she told him she was pregnant.
The suspense of not knowing whether this means that Mr T has been sleeping with his own child was palpable on Friday night. Arigi took her time telling everyone Cinnamon was not his child. So as shocking as their affair is, it is not incestuous!
The chastening of everyone, especially the women, finally comes after Phoebe lashes out at her former BFF and Cinnamon returns the thrashing by explaining she didn’t know Mr T was her dad; nor did she appreciate Phoebe behaving as if she isn’t also culpable for sleeping with married men just as she has.
But ultimately, it’s Christina who ends up telling the women they need to stop quibbling and instead, share some solidarity among themselves or nothing will change in the future.