Phoenix Theatre. Small, square, easy to miss are what comes to mind when I think of the place. Compared to other theatre houses in Nairobi like Alliance and the Kenya National Theater, Phoenix would be what we like to call here in Kenya ‘small fish’ . Being close to parliament does not help matters either because though a small building, parliament is a big building(digest that). The auditorium which has seen better days exudes a Shakespearean vibe an expected feel for one of the oldest auditorium in the city. Wikipedia describes the 120-seater auditorium as intimate and this has all to do with the size. Posters which are a common feature in theatre halls are also missing. In place is a rather glaring poster of the hall rates which sits frowning alone at the reception’s desk a frown I can only associate with lack of warmth.
The hall may be described in small adjectives(yes my 8-4-4 did not go to waste) but what it lacks in “Oomph’ was made up by what took me there on Sunday the 8th at 3pm. “Icembe Igonyoku” by Johari productions. So how was the play? am glad you asked. It was over and above what I expected and a friend of mine who I literally dragged to the theatre together with my sister gave a double thumbs up. Johari brought their A game after missing in action for a while with a master of a play that words in this article will do no justice to.
The play was produced and directed by women, a pure but welcome coincidence now that Sunday was International Women’s day. As is norm with Johari none of the current happenings in the country could be left out and this was from Kempinski to Laura Oyier who were the most current in Nairobi. (at least up to last week now that Nakuru MCA’s have decided the need their publicity too)
The first scene was a traditional Kikuyu circumcision ceremony and some of the words here; I confess I am a true Kikuyu but some of the words here challenged the roots from where my Kikuyu stems from. The women in this scene brought out their shamba game and just because you were using farms and fork jembes , the sex innuendos were not lost on us.
The “couples show” scene followed and those from Nyeri like yours truly were well represented. I may not carry a panga in my handbag just for the sake as depicted heck! even at all, though I would not blame you if you don’t believe me on this.
The third and what I will call the most hilarious(judge and jury) scene was the the airport lounge scene. Mwana Mwende(MM) of Coro Fm killed it and the English here deserve a medal on its own.
White Man: Are you Wanja?
MM: It isn’t.
If I happen to be smiling when staring at you this week, please don’t take it personal. My mind is not you. This scene is still replaying in my head and we have to give time before such happiness clears from our heads.
Women hanging on to their youth got their spot too but this was beside the message of the last scene. Here was a modern circumcision party with a real Ras Dj (ha) complete with a socialite (on that note: can the Johari crew dance or dance?) As I have stated before, I totally dig sarcasm and this scene was Johari’s special gift to me. If I was to name this scene I would call it Sarcasm Reloaded a depiction of what all plays should be about( a girl can wish).
Overall, the play was about single women’s struggle in raising their kids only for the sperm donors to reappear when all the work is done ready to reap the fruits.
It might have been all humor but if you missed the message on this one, consult an ophthalmologist. you cant be any blinder!! Even the title “Icembe Igonyoku” kikuyu for bent hoe/fork jembe on this one already had the message home .
I have deliberately left out most of the play’s content but I hope I have created enough interest for you to want to catch the next play. With that, I believe my work here is done.
In other news, Johari are looking to keep doing what the do best. In so, partner with them, sponsor a show, watch their plays spread the word and lets keep our theaters thriving. I hope I have done my part with this piece.
If I can admit, for those like me whose idea of fun is 2hrs spent laughing as loud as I wish (we don’t judge at the halls) we crave to keep those doors open. Its at these halls that the dragon in us is let loose. Decorum is thrown to the wind; strangers become friends from knowing glances of what is happening on stage and thunder has nothing on us from what is emanating from our mouths. At the end, we straighten our hair/dresses chin up and walk out with a lasting smile that cannot be put out even by the current sun situation in Nairobi.
Na kwa hayo machache, tembelea theatre iliyo karibu nawe and enjoy a play.