Sanaa theatre awards light up dynamic art scene

Sanaa Theatre awards are the only folks in town giving national recognition to Kenya’s burgeoning performing arts scene.

Some people claim there should be more award ceremonies. They note there should be at least one that focuses exclusively on professional and semi-professional theatre, leaving out TV shows and stars as well as winners from school drama festivals.

The critics contend the theatre scene in Kenya is dynamic enough not to see Sanaa pad their awards programme with TV and schools shows. But that is not the view of Sanaa founder-journalist, George Orido.

Audiences were grateful there were fewer awards given this year than last. And for the most part, the winners represented much of the best theatrical work staged in 2019, although there were a number of outstanding performances, actors and playwrights that were bypassed. But that must always be the case given theatre in Kenya is currently thriving, no matter what some critics content.

For instance, we saw more original script-writing by Kenyans this year that ever before. That included not only the winning playwright, Xavier Nato who deserved his award for Son of Agich. But then, writers like Seth Busolo, Walter Sitati, Mbeki Mwalimu, Too Early for Birds and Heartstrings all produced outstanding original works this past year.


The same could be said for directors. Stuart Nash certainly deserved first prize for directing Sarafina, but there were others, including Mugambi Nthege, Nick Ndeda, Esther Kamba, Gilbert Lukalia, Sammy Mwangi and Mbeki Mwalimu among others.

And as for actors, there is no doubt the judges must have had a difficult time selecting the best actors and supporting actors, since there is so much theatrical talent emerging in the country currently.

Difficult choice

This is an exciting time for Kenyan theatre. But one could see how challenging these choices must have been. For instance, Sanaa gave two actors, Ian Mbugua and Bruce Makau the best supporting actor award, suggesting it was a difficult choice to ultimately make. Xavier Ywaya deservedly won best actor’s prize, but he could also have won for his performance as Tom Mboya in the Too Early for Birds production of Tom Mboya as well as for his leading role as Lwanda Rockman.

Sanaa had the same problem with best actress, but I can understand. Both Sheila Munyiva and Nice Githinji were brilliant.

My one query for Sanaa Awards is its controversial choice of Best Supporting Individual.