Looking at Kenyan theatre last weekend, one might have gotten the idea that some of our leading thespians have become infected with feminist notions.
For instance, at Heartstrings’ last Friday night I saw a woman outwit her man, a master flatterer and philander.
Throughout the play, Do it Yourself you see the spouse (Nick Kwach) apparently having the upper hand. He’s cheating his wife (Anne Kamau) with super-sweet words, all the while making ‘whoopee’ with the house help (Adelyn Wairimu), scheming to swindle her with his pal (Victor Nyaata) and swiping funds from her ATM.
Meanwhile, the wife is wise to her man. She’s apparently known all along that, although he may love her (he puts on a great act), he’s definitely got mixed motives. After all, she’s moneyed. We don’t know how she got it. But we see she’s a working woman and probably a saver whose spouse is eating into her savings fast.
But like any thief, he’s bound to trip up eventually. He stretches his luck too far when asking his wife for a million in cash. That’s the red flag that gives her notice that she’s got to put her foot down. After all, she’s known about his games all along.
But it’s only after Victor and Nick stage a hilarious ‘kidnapping’ complete with a scrappy video that she reveals she isn’t going to keep quiet any more. She’s always known that he’s an unfaithful crook.
The deepest thing about this modern-day dark fairy tale comes when she gets philosophical. Looking at her man and men generally, she admits she’s known he’s a cheater, but she loves him all the same. In any case, what man is better, she asks? If she dumped this guy, what fellow could she find who would be any better!
Her perspective may seem cynical. But the crux of her (and Heartstrings’) insight is that we have been bringing up brighter girls every day but letting our boys slip through the cracks.
We’ve left them without the moral or ethical education they need to become great and good men who can stand side by side our new women.
It’s a powerful insight that needs to be taken seriously.
Hearts of Art tackles an even more delicate issue than greed, infidelity and blackmail.
It’s rape. Or is it?
That’s the contentious topic that Walter Sitati’s new script, Scars and Stilettos tackles, using tropes we are familiar with.
Like the attractive intern (Tracy Amadi) working in the office of a popular politician (Allan Sifuna), which echoes the notorious scandal of Monica and Bill Clinton. In both scenarios, the intern’s intentions are open to question. Was she a temptress out to seduce a married man? Or a vulnerable victim as her best friend (Patience Akinyi) believes her to be.
It’s the best friend who insists she go see a lawyer (Sitati). Once he gets to court, he does not just present her case. He’s enflamed with a feminist fervor as he challenges the politician’s canny lawyer (Pauline Kyalo).
Capturing all the dramatic electricity that a courtroom can contain, Sitati’s powerfully reasoned soliloquy is matched by the defence lawyer who’s managed to collect alluring photos and emails from the intern to her boss.
Fortunately for the girl, the Judge (Brian Muchina) rules the photos inadmissible in court. If he had ruled the other way, they could have been grounds for the pol contending the intern seduced him.
But then, we don’t find out how the case concludes since Sitati leaves us on a hanging cliff. The ‘curtain’ comes down just as the Judge is about to rule. So we’ll never know where the writer really stands.
What we do know is that Hearts of Art has empathy for women and understands how deeply the experience of rape affects the woman. We haven’t seen plays in Kenya address this delicate issue in the past, so we are grateful to Hearts of Art for defying the taboo on the topic and opening it up to public debate..
Tracy Amadi did an excellent job portraying the young woman whose naivety got her into big trouble and pain she hadn’t foreseen. We also loved the militant spirit of her friend (Akinyi) who insisted her friend take a stand, defy victimisation and fight for her dignity and for justice.
Incidentally, PAWA254 must fix the light system for their stage. Otherwise, I feel thespians using that stage suffer from inferior lighting.