Thursday, 15 December 2016



By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted  December 16th, 2016)

The 4th edition of the Sanaa Theatre Awards came off without a hitch last Wednesday night at Kenya National theatre apart from the Minister of Culture’s late arrival (forgiven after Dr. Wario made a brief speech promising practical means of promoting the Theatre) and George Orido’s exhaustive classification of potential award winners which were more than 40 this year.
 Minister for Culture, the Arts & Sports, Dr Hassan Wario with Sanaa Theatre Awards founder, George Orido. photo by Margaretta

Offering so many trophies was undoubtedly Orido’s effort to be all-inclusive, but for some of us who prefer awards ceremonies that are short and sweet, one may wish to ask Orido to edit his ceremony which went on until almost midnight.

Nonetheless, the selection of awardees this year was a worthy reflection of the local theatre scene. There might have a few gaps, but I would attribute that to the production teams not bothering to contact the local media for promotion of their shows.

The overwhelming winner of awards this year was from Mombasa: nonagenarian Kuldip Sondhai for his production, ‘Don Geronimo’
at The Little Theatre which won six awards: for Best Production; Best Director, Hillary Namanje; Best Playwright, Sondhai; Best Supporting Actress, Stephanie Masike; Best Play in English; and Sondhai being one of the five to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. (The other four were Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Wasambo Were,
Caroline Odongo and JPR Ochieng Odero.) And if you count the Little Theatre Club of Mombasa’s winning Most Improved Theatre Space (which Sondhai’s production enhanced), then that makes seven awards that the BBC award winning playwright and his cast can claim.

Best actor’s award went to Maina Olwenya
for his role as the Somali ‘terrorist’ in Silvia Cassini’s A Man Like You (which was also staged to appreciative audiences in New York City) which also won for being the ‘Best Tragedy’.

             Maina Olwenya as a Somali 'terrorist' interrogating a British diplomat (Tom Hardy)

Best actress went June Gachui for her role in Three Fold Cord. This looked like a difficult decision for the judges (who included George Orido, Sanaa awards founder, Dr Fred Mbogo, senior lecturer at Moi University and Nicholas Moipei, Chairman of Kenya Cultural Centre’s Board, among others), because June was up against Bernice Nthenya of Heartstrings (below)
and Veronica Waceke (below)
as the  leading lady in Gilb’art Production of Edufa.
In fact, the number of outstanding women actors who surfaced in 2016 was formidable as in the five we saw in “And then she said…” and Nyef Nyef Storytellers performing Sheroes. But at least Nyef Nyef won the award for Best Production on Women’s Rights and Gender-based Violence (the Maya Angelou Award) for A White Wedding which was performed at the newly-devised Storymoja Stage.

Giving two awards for Festival of Creative Arts’ performance of ‘Nuts+’, for Best Production on Child Rights and Protection and Best Production on Reproductive Rights was also an implicit awarding of women actresses since Helena Waithera (below left)
and Marianne Nungo (above, 2nd from left) were also outstanding in that show.

But so was the whole cast of ‘Nuts+’ which is why FCA was smart to bring back the show this weekend at Alliance Francaise.

In the meantime, Eliud Abuto was again awarded best producer this year, not only for his consistency of commitment to Kenyan theatre over the years, but also for his courage to break out of FCA’s comedic mold to successfully stage a seriously challenging script like Nuts+.

Another category that was clearly not easy for the judges to decide was Best Supporting Actor since 2016 was also a great year for guy actors. To my mind Joe Kinyua could have been considered for best actor in the August Wilson classic ‘Fences’ at Phoenix Theatre as well as for best supporting actor in Martin Kigondu’s Who’s Your Daddy?

But the award went to Kenyatta University’s Irshad Abdullaziz for his role in Euthanasia, a man also worthy of the win.

Thanks to Orido’s substantive list of theatrical classifications, there were many more award winners. Sammy Mwangi and Heartstrings tied for Best Director and My Fish My Choice.

Jungle Book won for Best Lighting and Sound while Tinga Tinga Tales won for Best Costuming as well as for Best Musical Theatre.

Awards also went to Jim Chuchu’s The Bones Remember for the Best Innovative Short Film on Health, Youth and Behavior Change, Best Art and Culture TV magazine: The Trend, Newspaper/Magazine: Business Daily Life and All-Time Supporting Institution: still Alliance Francaise.

Even Primary and Secondary Schools, Colleges and Universities got awards this year as did one of the counties. But the jewel in the crown or the President Barack Obama Award for most Dinguished Diaspora Award went to all four nominees, namely Lupito Nyong’o, Edi Gategi, Odera Owiso and the amazing Moipei Quartet, three of whom are studying overseas but happily came home for Christmas.

Happy Holidays to them all!

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