Women are definitely the hot topic on the arts scene currently— it is true all the way from the new Mageuzi Theatre at PAWA254 where Sibi Okumu’s revised version of Kaggia opens tomorrow at 3pm to Alliance Francaise where Heartstrings are staging their newly-devised Kenyans Please Step Aside.
The latter plays on President Kenyatta’s recent advice to allegedly corrupt government officials to ‘step aside’ while investigations into the charges against them get under way.
Within the context of Heartstrings’ newest comedy, which runs all through this weekend, it’s the first wife Doreen (Bernice Nthenya) of Milton (Nicholas Kwach) who’s been told she must ‘step aside’ since her conduct is not befitting that of a ‘proper wife’. Its hilarity arises when wife number two turns out to be worse than Doreen.
The implication of Heartstrings’ latest comedy is that whether one is asking a woman or a politician to ‘step aside’, there’s no assurance the replacements will be any better. But Mwangi’s show also implies wives and politicians are not the only ones ‘behaving badly.’
Kenyans Please Step Aside also suggests we are all falling down in our civility and consideration of others, mistreating fellow Kenyans in the smallest and biggest ways.
Ideally, we should all “step aside” (or change our ways) and give way to those who have more compassion, kindness and intelligent concern for others—not that Heartstrings is preaching, but even as the show tickles our ribs, it ought to also prick people’s conscience a bit.
A similar sort of message could come through next Friday night when Phoenix Players stage yet another brand new script entitled AID or Do Nothing.
Robin Denault, the show’s producer-director and playwright, aims to offer a bird’s eye view of the humanitarian aid world of professional ‘do-gooders’ both expatriate and Kenyan. Featuring Samson Psenjen and Maina Olwenye with Denault, the script is a blend of whodunit and murder mystery with touches of humour tossed in.
Based on ‘research’ he did during his three-year stint in Kenya, the Canadian thespian is leaving town very soon so we assume he’ll give a no-holds-barred perspective on the high-styled humanitarianism that takes aid workers around the world to conflict zones but rarely resolves those conflicts on the ground.
Finally, PAWA254 launched their theatre last Saturday. Funded by the Swedish embassy, and located at YMCA Alliance House’s fourth floor hall, it has some lovely carpeting, cushy chairs and an effective lighting.
But the sound system was sorely lacking during the show itself, such that Harry Ebale as Kaggia was often inaudible. Hopefully that problem will be rectified by May 2 when Sibi Okumu’s revised version of Kaggia will run both Saturday and Sunday at 3pm and 6pm.
The revision is stunning for its shifting the focus from the unsung Mau Mau freedom fighter who made history by standing up to Kenyatta, remaining true to the vision that undergird the Land and Freedom Army.
Simbi’s script now highlights the role of women in Kaggia’s life, especially Wambui his wife who we never doubted was the rock Kaggia clung to when the cause of justice, land and freedom for all Kenyans was betrayed.
Lydia Gitachu as Wambui is awesome as the devoted wife who clearly admires and adores her man. But she’s also the one who now reflects more fully his convictions, vision and the cause of anti-colonial liberation.
The other powerful woman in Kaggia redux is Yrimu Mwaura whose character is more fully fleshed out as both the inquisitive filmmaker who wants to get Kaggia’s story right and the daughter he adores.
Bruce Makau is a marvel, magically shifting from mean-spirited home guard to warm hearted missionary to British colonial and even to Daniel arap Moi.
His impersonations, including his accents, are both amusing and show-stealing.
Sadly, Sibi defied my expectations as I’d hoped he’d reshape Kaggia to make him more militant and resolved. Instead, the revised Kaggia seemed more like a sweet singing teddy bear whose cause he practically never mentions.
Kaggia the play now belongs to powerful women like Wambui, Gitachu and Mwaura. Yet we miss the mellow Mau Mau freedom fighter who we saw the first time round.