By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 22 August 2018)
‘Brazen’ women had no intention of keeping quiet after their first five performances at the Kenya National Theatre earlier this month.
The Brazen Edition of the theatre troupe Too Early for Birds was a tour de force that put Kenyan women’s theatre on the map. For not only was it written collaboratively by three brilliant women, Aleya Kassam, Anne Moraa and Laura Ekumbo. Speaking last Sunday at The Alchemist café, they told the incredible story of how the script was actually crafted over a nine month period (coincidentally the same time required for a woman to give birth to a child).
Brazen also featured an all-female cast, including the writers who framed their expansive story about six phenomenal Kenyan women whose lives influenced the country’s history in critical ways. Four out of the six were portrayed by one remarkably versatile actress, Nyokabi Macharia who dramatized the stories just told in a present-day setting by a group of women who were gathered around their former history teacher, Cucu, played by Sitawa Namwalie.
It was an ingenious means of storytelling, especially as the women group included a sex worker (Akinyi Oluoch), a care giver (Mercy Mbithe Mutisya), a pregnant woman (Laura Ekumbo), a party girl (Aleya Kassam) and the Cucu’s dear friend (Suzi Wanza Nyadawa).
The four great women that Nyokabi dramatized where Mekatilili, the Giriama woman leader who led her people in a rebellion against the British, Wangu wa Makeri, the only woman chief in Kikuyuland, the outspoken Hon. Chelagat Mutai who was the only woman among the ‘Seven Bearded Sisters’ so-named by the former AG Charles Njonjo for their defiant activism, and the nameless woman who brought down the legendary Luanda Magere. Field Marshall Muthoni Kirima, the only female Mau Mau freedom fighter promoted to the top rank of Field Marshall was played by Sitawa Namwalie. And the story of Zarina Patel, the independent woman activist who fought to defend Jeevanjee Garden from local land grabbers was passionately told by Aleya Kassam.
All the crew members were also women. And the unforgettable all-female GQ Dancers added a visual vibrancy and fiery flare to the production as well.
But it was the show’s director Wanjiku Mwawuganga that even the three scriptwriters deferred to on Sunday. They said it was Wanjiku’s brilliant direction that ultimately put the show in perfect shape and ensured Brazen would truly be unapologetically feminist.