Play lays bare evils of tribalism


Confrontation between two mothers, played by Grace Waihuini and Ellsey Adhiambo. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU

Walter Sitati and Hearts of Art have done it again. Tackling touchy social issues in Repair my Heart (his newest script), he continues to sound alarms about a range of hot button issues that have yet to be fully resolved.

Staged at PAWA254 last weekend, Repair my Heart contains a sobering set of social messages that are still raw in the minds of many. For instance, Sitati addresses the perennial problem of tribalism and its ugliest effects, including hard core hatred, rape, murder, land-grabbing and heartless greed.

Surprisingly, there’s also lot of joy, poetry, music and brotherly affection expressed between friends who come from rival communities. Logan (Boniface Ndonye) and Sky (Elvis Gatere) are a new generation of Kenyans who are less emotional and more inclined to live in the present and not dwell on past grievances.

The two young men share a mutual affinity for music and poetry, which comes out in songs they sing. Fortunately, both lads have lovely voices and they harmonise well. Their shared affection is almost too effusive, but we won’t wonder why.

What we know is they’ve both crossed over into tabooed territory by sharing a friendship that both their moms detest.

Meanwhile, Sitati’s got several simmering sub-plots running through the play. He’s a master at interweaving storylines. So while there’s the story of Logan and Sky, there’s also Sky and his girlfriend Mercy (Azziad Nasenya) who gets involved with Governor Carl (Allan Sifuna) who’s Logan’s older brother. Carl’s running for reelection with his main contender being Sky’s sister, Sophie (Tracy Amadi).

Sophie’s the first one to display a bitter brand of tribal hatred. It’s towards her brother’s friend Logan whose brother, Carl, sexually abused her when they were first running for office, and she was about to win.

That time she lost but she’s refused to give up and is running again. In this case, rape was definitely used as a weapon of political warfare. Carl’s wicked mum (Grace Waihuini) had actually been the one recommending her son bring Sophie down “by any means necessary” or else he’d be humiliated by defeat.

Making the mum the master-mind of everything from rape and murder to land-grabbing comparable to Kenya’s post-election violence of 2007-8 was an unfortunate choice by the writer. Nonetheless, Sitati resolves his play with such a surprising twist that the same mother is somehow forced to come clean.

In the end, forgiveness, humanity and friendship win the day. But not until Sky’s mum (Ellsey Adhiambo) concedes the day of reckoning must come. One must choose either to hate or forgive.

It was tenuous time at play’s end, as one felt the tension and suspense as the mothers teetered on a tight rope till both agreed forgiveness had to win the day. There was no other way.

Sitati’s ending almost didn’t fly but thanks to Ellsey’s incredibly powerful last words, her conviction held sway.

Meanwhile, Brookhouse School achieved what would seem to have been an impossible feat last Tuesday night when they staged three plays by William Shakespeare in less than two hours.

Students ranging in age from 10 to 12 years performed adapted versions of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream on a spacious stage that was simply set. And because of that simplicity, the power of each play relied on students’ skillful acting as well as carefully focused lighting, sound and attractive costuming.

Michelle Forsyth is head of the Primary (Prep) classes at Brookhouse, but she’s also an avid thespian who oversaw the Shakespeare showcase. She also directed Macbeth, which starred Daniel Gichuru in the title role and Solange Gathu as his conniving Lady Macbeth.

Ms Forsyth was assisted by Carmen McComic and Lynn Herderson in codirecting A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which the sprightly Puck (Arielle Plumbe) was Oberon’s (Eric Coffie) efficient messenger. Christine Patterson also helped direct the heart-breaking love story, Romeo and Juliet.

All three plays were adapted for school performances, but still they didn’t lose the impact, drama or comedy of the Bard’s best intentions.

Speaking to BD after the show, Ms Forsyth said she loved the idea of putting on three plays at once as it allowed more children to get involved. In all, over 80 kids got to be in the cast.