I am human.
That means most times I am skeptical about everything.
Case in point: Before I watch a play and I know of a friend who has watched the play, ill hit up the friend and ask how the play was.This, of course, has no bearing on whether I’ll watch the said play but on where to put my emotions.
If the friend, for example, says the play was great, my moods will get a notch higher and I’ll enter the theatre hall with a smile already on my face and ‘can-this-play-already-get-started’ attitude.
If they say otherwise, I’ll just sigh, adjust my emotions accordingly to the left side of laughter scale but still watch the play (I am that loyal).
This is what happens with ‘Handa Itimu’. I text my friend asking how the play was and the first response is awesome before he goes on to add how he wanted more scenes. I chuckle at the reply. The passenger next to meet asks why the sudden joy and I answer awesome. He gives me a defeated look indicating he has no idea what I am talking about, but I just smile and get back to texting.
I get to Alliance at about 6.00 pm for the Sunday show and at exactly 6:30 pm, the national anthem is sung, the best way we know how, signifying the play is about to start.
Curtains open (By the way what happened to real curtains sliding open to open the stage?) and a dancing Macharia( Maina) the waiter/receptionist ushers us to Lala Salama Salmin Sagana Resort and Spa the scene for today’s play.
Nyanduse/Lucy the hotel’s owner wife(got it?) watches Macharia for a while without disrupting him or him noticing she is standing there.
Lucy: Macharia, surely how can it take you 30 minutes before you notice I am standing here? is this the kind of services you are offering to the customers?
Macharia: But the song is only 3 minutes long so how could you have been standing there for 30 minutes?
(Right there you know she is Kenyan. Most likely a Kenyan parent. The power of exaggeration)
That delivers the first punch as Lucy goes on to describe Macharia’s queer behaviours.
A few exchanges here and there on stage and I glance at my watch which reads 30 minutes in then I read my friend’s text again to make sure it read awesome. My emotions start to adjust to the left side, and I am about to text my pal if we were referring to the same play.
A few more minutes in and the hall bursts into roars of laughter a condition that is maintained to the play’s end.
Lucy who has been running
down the resort unexpectedly learns of her husband’s return to Kenya. The husband, Kimemia (Lawrence Murage) has been working in South Sudan from where he has been remitting money home to run and maintain the resort. Lucy, however, has been finding other uses for the money which has resulted to underpaid staff and a rundown hotel. With a promise to pay all their dues, the team however, offers to help Lucy create a facade to show the husband the hotel has been running as expected with full bed capacity.
It’s from this point we get to experience the the cast’s prowess and why my play thought the play awesome.
Each of the staff plays two or three roles from different regions as a demonstration of how the resort is filled to capacity with customers of different nationalities .
First to cross the stage is the resort’s watchman Kung’u (‘ithe wa murio’ as he is referred to by one of his colleagues because of his everyday visitors from Supa Mambo brothel) . This time though, he is Abdul from Mtwapa with Pwani Swahili and ‘misemos’ to boot.
Jessy (Maryanne Nyambura) a cleaning lady in the resort- whose mouth we will dedicate to a whole post one of these days- is the second to appear only this time she is an angry Meru woman with a very elaborate accent looking for towels.
Watiri(Gathoni), another cleaning lady with a lisp, transforms to a lady customer demanding for a taxi, spoken as ‘I need a takthii, athap’. The facial expression on Watiri’s face when Kimemia offers to take her instead of waiting for the late taxi and her response ‘as a cuthtomer I’ll practith patienth’ is why stage plays can never be compared to film.
The only real customer in the hotel is a ‘sponsoree’ (Nyce Wanjeri) out to help the ‘sponsor'(Kinuthia)-who brilliantly plays an old man- reduce some of the just received pension before the wife lays a claim on it. The old man christened’ teenager’ however dies leaving the ‘sponsoree’ to blackmail by the staff to join in the facade. She effortlessly transforms herself to Ruth wa Habakkuk, a turbaned lady from ‘Helikopta of Jesus’ ministries delivering a sterling performance that earns her endless cheers as she exits the stage.
Remember the watchman Mr .Kungu(Pablo Kimani)? he makes a second play as ‘Mr. Azaletesa Bokoto’ a Congo artist in Kenya for a performance. Jessy returns as a mum of twins (played by Nyce and Kinuthia) while Watiri with her lisp makes a return as cucu Sabrina.
You know how your dues eventually catch up with you? The lie could have been pulled off save for one of the Supamambo lady’s(Jay Wangari) who comes back for her dues from Kungu for services offered the previous night. She is surprised to find Kung’u as Azaletesa Bokoto from Congo, but not surprised enough to forget he owes her money. It’s at this point that everything takes a downward spin. Jay wants her dues whether he is Azaletesa or kung’u leaving no option for Kung’u but to confess on the lie. This further confirms Kimemia’s suspicion of how all the resort’s customers look too alike.
‘Handa Itimu” described above was Fanaka Art’s October play edition and was directed by Lawrence Murage assisted by Gathoni Njuguna. The play was staged at the Alliance Francaise 13th to 16th October 2016.
I ask the lady seated next to me(Ciku) how the play was and these are her words verbatim
‘That was so much fun.’
‘I have been watching plays for a while now, and I have noted such great improvement.’
An exhilarating play with an equally able cast and directorship is what I would describe this was. The whole cast was phenomenal but I’ll give a special mention to the watchman on stage Mr.Kungu Aka Abdul Aka Azatesa real name Pablo Kimani. It looks so effortlessly how he is able to switch in a matter of minutes between different characters he is playing within the same play/scene(this not being the first play he has done that)
On this one watu wa Fanaka Arts Theatre…. Makofi ya kilo
How about extending this play for another hour if saying two more hours would be stretching it too far?