The minute I saw the photos below of Humphrey and Pablo in a dress and high heels on the Fanaka Arts Facebook page, it was sold to me that I had to watch this play.
These photos especially made it easier to choose what to play to watch, now that two of my preferred Kikuyu play houses were staging their plays on the same weekend and I had to choose one due to time and other reasons beyond my control. As I pondered on which play to choose, and trying to make the best of it, I chanced upon the above photos, and the decision was made.
Come Sunday 4th June; I was at the Kenya National Theatre (KNT) gate some minutes past 7 pm excitedly ready for the last staging of Fanaka Art’s ‘Rugama Ringi’. Rugama Ringi was Fanaka Art’s June edition act staged at the KNT between the 1st and 4th of June 2017.
At exactly 7:10 pm, the Kenya National Anthem was played in Kikuyu to signify both the commencement of the play and to bring the audience to attention.
With the stage curtains still closed, the play opened with a talent search scene. The contestants who were not aware of what the search rewards were displayed their best acts eliciting both waves of laughter and dismay from the two judges Ngure(Humphrey) and Kanyoro (Pablo). What was hidden from the contestants though was that the audition was just a scheme to fleece them of the registration cash. There was nothing beyond the registration.
Before the end of this scene that lasted close to thirty minutes, I had tried and unsuccessfully failed to sit still in my seat. I was rolling with laughter, all decorum thrown out as I gladly wiped tears from my eyes. It was such a good feeling now that it had been a while since I laughed until I tears were streaming down my face.
Further undeniable proof that this was the best scene was displayed by the cast who were still cracking up seven shows down the line. Try to imagine then how it was for those of us watching it for the first time.
One contestant’s audition act was a display of her proficiency in translating English to Kikuyus as she read newspaper articles written in English. She inadvertently read out an advert taken by a family that was looking for their missing grandchildren who had disappeared after their mother’s death. The grandmother, who had taken out the advert was looking to pass along their rightful inheritance. Kanyoro while carefully listening to this act identified an opportunity to make money. He made the contestant read out the advert a number of times to fully comprehend it. He relayed his identified strategy to his partner and quickly ushered out the contestant.
With a plan in place, the two men make their way to Runda; the venue indicated in the advert. What seems to however have escaped them was that the missing children (Lucky and Gift) were female, a crucial piece of information they learnt on arriving at the home. They quickly sprang up a new story claiming that they were lawyers representing the missing children. When it was clear that the inheritance would not be handed over to the lawyers, the duo made a hasty exit asserting they were there to familiarize themselves on where to bring Lucky and Gift once they picked them from the airport. Apparently, Lucky and Gift were now flying in from South Sudan.
A few minutes later the two men re-entered the stage with a complete change in their gender appearances. The ‘ladies’ at this point implying to be the missing grandchildren confidently strode in their high heels, wore dresses, stockings, weaves, makeup and even handbags.
At their entrance, the hall erupted into wild fits of laughter and cheering. The laughter and cheering further continued as the ‘ladies’ walked, stood or anyone made a remark in reference to them. The laughter got louder when the ‘ladies’ started speaking in acclimatized voices trying to pass themselves off as ladies.
For the remaining one hour, the stage was an excitement of activities as the ‘ladies’ attempted to hasten the inheritance transfer process in this home where a feast had been prepared for their arrival. Everyone else in the family tried to be accommodating but it was clear they were perplexed the two grandchildren physical appearance.
When the con was finally uncovered, first, by a family member who wanted a share of the loot and finally by the whole family, the best plead by the ‘ladies’ was that they were there as ‘independent’ heirs.
This two hour, eight cast show, directed by one Lawrence ‘Lau’ Murage, was an extended burst after burst of laughter from the audience which to the cast I am certain signified a thoroughly entertained audience. Its also always fascinating to see how the cast effortlessly changes into the different roles. On this one, that element was articulately displayed
Still not convinced this was a ‘not-to-be-missed’ show? Ask the lady seated one seat after mine. The lady was cradling a baby in her arms who by estimation looked a few weeks or months shy of six months. In between placing a boob into the kid’s mouth and the constant soothing, and passing the child between her two companions, the child remained relatively silent throughout. I believe her efforts were rewarded because in between all those activities, I could see and hear her laughing as loud as everyone else in that hall.
One of Fanaka Arts Theatre tradition is to pray after their last show. The director hence asks for a volunteer from the audience to lead the prayers. When at the end of this one there was no volunteer, I was still relieving the play when I heard Lau assign Mugweru to pray. I lowered my head in readiness for Mugweru to lead the prayers when Lau discernibly expressed he was referring to Mugweru Lydiah. With that, I slowly rose and offered what I will call the final blessing.
Twirute Gikuyu: Mugi ndari mihere ya uhoro