Wednesday, 20 March 2019

COOKIA THIIRII: MORE THAN MAKING FUN OF CORRUPTION

                                               The MP, the fellow Drug dealer and the driver in Cookia Thiinii

By Margaretta wa Gacheru (post for BD 20 March 2019)

Fanaka Arts Theatre only presents Kikuyu plays like the one they produced last weekend and which I (a non-Kikuyu speaker) had the audacity to attend.
Staged before a full house at Alliance Francaise ‘Cookia Thiinii’ is a comedy about corruption and the extremes people will go to, just so they can keep playing the corruption game.
Even humble peasants like Wangechi (Mercy Thairu), the house-help can get caught up in it. She’s even deemed an ‘accessory’ to a crime once the drug dealing of her boss, the MP Gitahi (Maina Ndambiri) gets discovered by his straight-arrow lawyer wife Jane (Maryanne Nyamburu, who also co-directed the show with Mercy Thairu).
        The maid (Mercy Thairu co-directs), the lawyer (Maryanne Nyambura also co-directs) and the office aid (Shiru Kiarie)

‘Cookia Thiini’ makes fun of corruption, but by exposing its reality, it’s revealed to be just like a plague that can infect and bring down anyone. That includes everyone from the boss’s cheeky driver Joram (Njomo Nyathira) to his office supervisor Agnes (Shiru Kiarie), and especially to Jane’s old friend Wariara (Wangari Nguri) who’s in cahoots with Gitahi, the spouse that Jane vows not to spare once she sees what’s been happening in her home while she’s been away.
                                                                The MP Gitahi and the crooked business woman

Jane had left the country to start up her law practice elsewhere since she can’t stand the extent to which corruption had seemingly seeped into every nook and cranny of the society. Returning home for a visit, she’s initially no wiser since everyone’s prepared to cover up their dirty deals.
But then when a comedy of errors occurs that goes beyond Gitahi’s or anyone’s control, it doesn’t take long for Jane to catch on and quickly declare the jig is up.
The first thing that falls apart is Gitahi and Wariara’s drug deal. That occurs when the maid accidentally picks up the boss’s bag, thinking it belongs to the returning wife. 

Not knowing what’s inside, she tosses it over the family fence to retrieve after a while. But somehow it disappears, picked ironically by the escaped convict Kanyi (Charles Maina) who Gitahi had scapegoated and got thrown into jail as a convenient means to cover up his own crime.
The other thing that hastens the MP’s downfall is the arrival of Kanyi  at his home. The convict has escaped from Kamiti prison so he can come back to Gitahi with a gun and demand restitution. He wants big bucks for the ruining of his reputation and an air ticket out of the country.
Kanyi’s only crime had been to be poor and to want to get rich quick. He applied for and got a government tender. But he had no cash to cover the fees required. When he goes to Gitahi for a loan, that’s when his vulnerability makes him easy prey for a shark like the MP.
                                                       The MP and the driver who he blames for losing his bag

But Kanyi doesn’t get what’s he’s come home to collect. Once Jane arrives, there’s a mad scramble to make everything look normal. Kanyi is made the ‘new cook’ and the financee to Aggie, who in the play is a sister not a bride to be.
Ultimately, it’s Kanyi’s cookery that literally explodes in his face and rouses eye-popping suspicion on Jane’s part.  After that, the ruse unravels and Jane’s appalled to find the cancerous corruption having invaded her own house.
Her reaction is refreshing since she clearly takes a firm stand against the immorality and illegality that she now sees with clear eyes. She embodies the sort of ethical position that many Kenyans wish they could see manifest among people in positions of authority, be they lawyers, women leaders or Members of Parliament. For Jane doesn’t just charge everyone as accessories to Gitahi’s crimes. She vows to see they get convicted and then sent to jail. Perhaps Kanyi will get a reprieve, but it looks unlikely since he too played along with those trying to cover up their dirty deals.

Cookia Thiini is a show that kept the audience in stitches from the outset, thanks to the cheeky, and slightly salacious banter that went on between Joram the driver and Wangechi the maid. They set the stage for the story to unfold seamlessly. And with a cast that was fully conversant with their roles and a story that had multiple twists and turns, one has to say that Fanaka Arts has a few things in common with Heartstrings Entertainment.

Both companies have seasoned casts who’ve got chemistry and charisma that derive in part from the way they operate. For the scripts are collectively devised, allowing everyone to be part of theatrical process. Also, both groups derive many of their themes and actual incidents from everyday Kenyan life. 
                       Jane (Maryanne Nyambura) and Wariara used to be good friends, until Jane discovers her dirty game

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