Dr Fred Mbogo is already an acclaimed playwright, in addition to being an actor, director and university lecturer in theatre arts.
Having written as many as 50 plays, only a dozen of have actually seen the light of day on stage, either in Eldoret, Johannesburg or Nairobi. Nonetheless, his most recent script, The Dying Need No Shoes has already been short-listed for its performance by Nice Githinji and Ben Tekee, directed by Esther Kamba.
But the play he’s performing tonight through Sunday at Kenya National Theatre’s Cheche Gallery is the first one in which he’s not only scripted. He also stars in the one-man show entitled The Revolution ate my Son.
Tonight he will prove that not only does he create complex characters like Joni Muchera, the cynical storytelling lecturer who shares his jaundiced view of Kenya’s recent history in his classroom. Dr Mbogo also explores one of the most troubling topics that Kenyans have contemplated and critiqued for years, at least since the failed coup attempt of 1982.
That was the year that, in real life, many Kenyans fled for their lives. It’s specifically one of those exiles, whom Mbogo names Joseph Karumba wa Dubiaku, that his play is about. Yet it’s the storyteller Muchera who reflects on Karumba’s life as well as his mysterious death after coming back home after many years abroad.
It’s an intricate tale inspired largely by a recent novel by Mukoma wa Ngugi who himself is a son of the exiled award-winning writer and university professor, Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
“But I don’t want people jumping to the conclusion that the novel or even the play is about an exile like Ngugi,” says Dr Mbogo who underscores the fact that Mukoma is a fiction writer, and the play is also a form of fiction.
Nonetheless, there are numerous issues raised in the play that have been mulled over on social media as well as in bars, and even in classrooms about exiles like Ngugi. Undoubtedly, there will be speculation as to whom Muchera represents since he has deep-seated reasons for his cynical perspective on Kenyans who fled. One will have to see this remarkable show for oneself to grasp how Mbogo crafted this controversial topic.
“Muchera is actually in class addressing the topic, what is truth?” says Mbogo whose character is implicitly reflecting on his own life, including its merits and demerit.