Secular plays take centre stage as Xmas kicks in

Cyprian Osoro, Jane Wangari, Victor Nyaata and Nick Kwach in ‘‘Nobody is Leaving’’ at Alliance Francaise. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG
Cyprian Osoro, Jane Wangari, Victor Nyaata and Nick Kwach in ‘‘Nobody is Leaving’’ at Alliance Francaise. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG 

As we head towards Christmas, Hanukkah and the New Year, theatre lovers have just seen the three best holiday productions complete their runs on various stages in Nairobi. Grease at Kenya National Theatre (KNT), Ali Baba at Braeburn Theatre, and The Nutcracker ballet at both the KNT and Braeburn all had memorable finale performances.

Last weekend was also a time when Christmas music was alive, vibrant and soul-inspiring at both The Elephant in Lavington and in churches like the All Saints Cathedral. So what remains in the way of theatre this weekend is secular storytelling which has nothing to do with holiday festivities.

It seems the expectation has been that people would disappear from town by mid-month.

At Alliance Francaise, Heartstrings won’t let you down if you are looking for loads of laughs, although Nobody is Leaving is slightly more inane and illogical than most Heartstrings shows.

It’s all about a wealthy single father (Nick Ndeda) who’s on his way to work and to banking his business’ cash when his only daughter Subsconsta (Cindy Kahuha) informs him that her boyfriend Shawn is arriving today from the UK where he’s fresh from Oxford. She adds he’d also been to Harvard and supposedly he has business interests in oil!

Dad is delighted and interprets “boyfriend” to mean fiancé. Thus, he drops his previous plans and starts preparing for his girl’s wedding. Aided by his trusty (but zany) house man (Victor Nyaata), he orders food, chairs, sofas and loads of other items fit to impress family members, but not her friends.

He’s out of step with millennials, it would seem. But he tries to be polite when two strangers (Cyprian Osoro and Jane Wangari) show up. We assumes they are Subsconsta’s friends although the girl is peculiarly silent in the face of her father’s flurry. One cannot tell whether Cindy is playing passive on purpose (because the story is designed that way) or if she’s been poorly directed or if she simply cannot act.

But her passivity is peculiar. So is the fact that she doesn’t question the identity of the two strangers since they are clearly not family relations although they pretend to be.

What’s also strange is the way, after the taxi driver arrives without Shawn (who’s apparently been “lost” at one of the petrol stations), Subsconsta feels compelled to tell her father the driver is Shawn.

There was no need for the ruse. Indeed, it seems contrived simply to advance the storyline. Of course, the driver is boorish, loud and behaves nothing like an attentive fiancé.

Nick Kwach and  Cindy Kahuha in Heartstrings’ ‘‘Nobody’s Leaving’’. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

Nick Kwach and Cindy Kahuha in Heartstrings’ ‘‘Nobody’s Leaving’’. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

But then the crooks make their move. This is when the real fun begins, especially when a cop friend (Mark Otieno) of the father arrives on the scene, greets the guests and discretely goes. He seems hoodwinked by gun-wielding crooks who are essentially holding the family hostage.

But then there’s a twist or two just before the show ends with bang, in Heartstrings’ inimitable style.

Nobody is Leaving runs from tonight through Sunday.

Meanwhile, at Daystar, Valley Road, Prevail Arts are bringing back What Happens in the Night.

They had to bring back this gripping murder mystery since it had only been staged once last month and that wasn’t enough to satisfy audiences.

Written, directed and produced by Martin Kigondu, the cast remains strong, with Chichi Seii, Nick Ndeda (fresh from a sterling performance in Grease), Shiviske Shivisi and Salim Gitau.

It might even be a stronger performance as Bilal Mwaura replaces Mourad Sadat. But you’ll have to get to the 5pm show this Saturday to find out for yourself.

Finally, one reason the theatre may be slightly dry this holiday season is because many of our best actors and actresses have shifted from the stage to work in film and television.

Quite a few of them got awarded last Saturday night during the seventh annual Kalasha TV and Film Awards. Among them are Catherine Kamau, Martin Githinji, Frank Kimani, Wanjiku Njoroge and Anthony Ndung’u, just to name a few. Congratulations to them all!