POST-TRUTH PLAYS ON THE NAIROBI STAGE
By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 23.12.2016)
At a time when the Oxford dictionaries just recently selected ‘post-truth’ as their 2016 ‘international word of the year’, the local theatre scene has apparently tuned into the same global trend that claims big talk based on hot air and fat egos are more influential than truth and fact.
Staging shows that amplify the power of duplicity and presence, theatre companies like FCA and Heartstrings have lately put on combustible social satires that implicitly make fun of liars and cons who seem to win hearts and minds by being basically deceitful, audacious and passionately self-serving.
In shows like ‘Nuts+’ and ‘Behind your Back’ (both of which were staged last weekend), it’s the biggest and most presumptuous liars who seem to be succeeding simply by making the boldest, most outrageous claims which they pronounce with so much pompous self-assurance that supposedly only fools and simpletons would believe they’re not lying.
The problem is that con-men and con-women have proved in 2016 that it’s not only the simple-minded and semi-literate who fall prey to believing lies. Even supposedly smart people get lost in the miasma of mendacity and Ponzi schemes.
Some might disagree that Nuts+ is a social satire since there’s a man who’s been murdered and a young wife who’s not only charged with bumping her hubby off, but also charged with being mentally sick, so much so that she needs to be locked up for life since she’s supposedly a menace to society.
What’s more, the young woman, Claudia (Helena Waithera) is a survivor of child-abuse inflicted by her step-dad, Donald (Bilal Wanjau) who’s a politician keen to get this smart-ass kid put away for life.
Nuts+ is actually a serious play that grapples with hard-core hot-potato issues, but for me what gives it that satiric edge is the way a scheming prevaricator like Donald has managed not just to become a politically powerful mayor, but also to persuade the public, including the shrink (Mourad Sadat), the prosecutor (Bokeba Mbotela) and even his wife, Agnes (Marianne Nungo) Claudia’s mother, that he’s an honest, good man despite being the worst of the worst.
So seamless are his lies that he almost gets away with locking up the one person who can destroy his political career and quest for power.
Fortunately, it’s finally the Judge (Angel Waruinge) who manages to see through the pretentious plan of both parents, and rule in Claudia’s favor.
But just image the way everyone else was duped by Donald, the child predator and the one who ought to be put away.
Probably, the better example of a ‘post-truth’ play that more flagrantly satirized con-men and women is Heartstrings’ ‘Behind Your Back’ which seriously spoofed so many ways that some Kenyans have learned how to play kleptomaniac games and slip into other people’s shoes (pocket-books and beds) without the slightest pang of conscience.
Stealing other people’s identities isn’t simply a ‘Kenyan thing’ by any means. Sadly, it’s happening all over the world, to the point where hackers can get into people’s personal secrets and even their bank accounts without fear of getting caught.
Amos (Victor Nyaata) is Dominic (Nick Kwach)’s house help but when the boss leaves town (almost), Amos takes on Dom’s identity, all so he can woo the pretty lady, Nyokabi (Adelyne Wairimu) who shows up at his door.
Not quite equipped to step in the boss’s shoes, his pretentious ineptitude is terribly funny, but Nyokabi initially seems impressed. But then the boss shows up, (his flight having been cancelled) and quickly sizes up the scene, so he also pretends to be Amos in order to help his houseman save face.
Their dexterous duplicity is delightful, especially as they swap identities severally, reverting back to the truth, every time Nyokabi leaves the room.
But what’s really fun is when the boss’s mistress Elizabeth (Mackryn Adhiambo) shows up, only to discover her maid, Nyokabi is there, wearing her clothes and pretending to be her. It’s a shocker, especially as we see everybody’s playing a game.
But the ‘coup de grace’ comes when the Elizabeth’s spouse (Cyprian Osoro) shows up and the whole charade explodes, only showing that post-truth ultimately isn’t likely to last forever. Truth, we have heard, is ultimately bound to win the day. But one can only believe that if you too are a true believer.
Finally, Martin Kigondu’s directing a brand new dramatized production of poetry by Joan Sikand, all about ‘Peace and Love’ with music by Checkmate Mido and Serro, dance by Brigette Ikwara and a cast including Nick Ndeda, Angela Mwandanda and Laura Ekunbo. It’s happening at The Tribe Hotel January 6th and 7th.