By Margaretta wa Gacheru
“Night, Mother” is a Pulitzer prize-winning drama that makes its Kenyan premiere tonight at Kenya National Theatre’s Ukumbi Mdogo at 7pm.
Presented by Sanifu Productions and ACT Kenya, the two-hander is a compelling story about a mother and daughter at a critical moment when Jessie (Rachel Kostrna) is contemplating suicide and her mom Thelma (Julisa Rowe) is trying to talk her out of it.
‘Night, Mother’ won its playwright Martha Norman several Tony award nominations and the prestigious Pulitzer prize for theatre in 1983. But despite the play being more than 35 years old, it remains fresh, timely and sadly relevant to our local scene where suicide has become the second most frequent cause of death among young people.
According to the World Health Organization, it’s youth ranging from ages 15 to 29 who are most prone to depression and suicide. Jessie falls into that age group and has decided she’s got no good reason to stay alive.
The tension in this tenderly sensitive tale is what has made the play so popular in the Western world. But just as Kenyans have appropriated so many other cultural qualities, customs and quirky attributes from the West, they have also embraced a number of psychological trends. One of them is suicide, a practice virtually unheard of in pre-colonial Kenya.
Julisa Rowe has been a professional actor for many years and a theatre lecturer at Daystar University for the past 11 years. Rachel Kostrna is a visiting performing artist from Oregon who’s directed, scripted and starred in many plays.
“Night, Mother’ will be staged through Sunday.
Meanwhile, news just in is that Heartstrings Kenya has been working on a new comedy. They will be staging ‘Last Man Standing’ from 4th-7th October at Alliance Francaise.
Finally, this past week has witnessed a style of performance that relies on literature other than actual plays. At Goethe Institute, Ngartia Bryan of Too early for Birds, gave a spellbinding performance from Olumide Popoola’s novel, ‘When we speak of nothing’. And at the Point Zero Coffee House, members of the Performance Collective, Aghan Odera and Wambua Kawive read from ‘Love in the time of cholera’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Both performances were inspired.
And at Kenya National Theatre, Tinga Tinga Tales the Musical is only running this weekend and next. So it’s best to book now or you might miss this extra-ordinarily entertaining production.