By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 2 August 2018)
Was he ‘Legally insane’ as Back to Basics theatre troupe entitled their newest production? Or is the ‘legal’ status simply a label that his greedy wife hopes to get affixed to him so she can claim his company and vast wealth?
According to Justin Miriichi’s ingenious psychological drama, one might never know for sure.
But what one was easily assured of last weekend when this surprisingly powerful four-hander premiered at Alliance Francaise was that Gilbert Lukalia is an awesome actor who played Ian, the schizophrenic CEO and family patriarch with spellbinding flips in psychic flow.
He’s been shipped off to a psychiatric ward by wife Muthoni (Wanjiku Mburu) aftehe apparently ‘went mad’ at a Board meeting and beat up one board member.
Muthoni wants him committed permanently since she’s been beaten brutally by Ian throughout their marriage. It would seem she’s taking this opportunity to get revenge. However, her motives are unclear since he seriously seems to have gone off the proverbial deep end.
Certainly, as he wakes up from a heavily-sedated sleep, he behaves like a baby, fearful of invisible demons and apparently unaware of who are his wife and driver of 20 years, Hannington (Nick Ndeda).
But then, after fleeing to the bathroom, he comes out apparently restored to his overbearing self, scornful and abusive his wife. Calling her a whore and accusing her and Hannington of scheming to lock him away forever, it would seem he’s far more lucid than one would’ve thought.
All the while, an invisible shrink is in the room appraising the father and family’s conduct. The doctor had refused to take Muthoni’s proposal at face value. After all, Ian’s behaved like a rich bully for years.
The turning point comes with the arrival of ‘prodigal son’ Junior (Bilad Mwaura). Disinherited by Ian, he’s become a beach bum. Embittered towards both his parents, he taunts Muthoni with the same allegation as Ian’s, that he isn’t even his dad.
Bilad Mwaura’s performance is masterful, mean and almost as lavishly lunatic as Lukalia’s.
But then something unexpected transpires. Ian apparently returns to his senses, sits his son down and invites him to take charge of his estate.
Suddenly, Muthoni’s true colors apparently come out and the two men align themselves against her, blaming her for everything
‘Legally Insane’ is a fascinating, but deeply misogynous script. Muthoni gets trashed and Miriichi offers no critique of either bullies, fascists or the status quo.
Mbeki Mwalimu, Back to basics founder-director of Legally Insane