Wednesday, 29 May 2019

HOW FARCE CAN FRUSTRATE


(posted 29 May for 31 May 2019)


Not to be too critical (especially as I admire Talenta Yetu), but it must be said that farce is not the equivalent to overacting. And I saw a lot of the latter in their latest production, ‘Our Prophet says he is dead’.
One only needs to study masterful writers of farce like Moliere or Shakespeare to appreciate that a farce is one of the most difficult genres of theatre to write. The farcical elements emerge out of a credible story that becomes incredible out of logical circumstances.
Scripted and directed by Joseph Murunga, the play had a credible plot line, especially for Kenya where we have too many ‘prophets’ who are first class conmen like Prophet Pius Power (Fanuel Mulwa) who wants to ‘die’ and rise again like Jesus Christ with the aid of the doctor who’s agreed to provide the drug that will make him look dead. An antidote will induce the ‘resurrection’ but it must be taken in good time to ensure the nearly fatal drug’s effect is not permanent.
We meet Pius in a hotel room, but wonder why he’d choose that location to ‘die’. Wouldn’t it arouse suspicions? Why was he there? With whom? And when would his body be found?
Then there’s the ‘Doctor’ Kiti (Sybil Mukandutite). She’s got on a white hospital coat. But chewing gum and wearing a short jump suit aren’t exactly a professional’s style. Yet Pius doesn’t detect anything strange. Nor does he recognize Kiti as a girl he’d impregnated 18 years before. It’s his life on the line but he’s apparently so full of himself, he doesn’t realize he could be conned just as easily as he cons others.
But Pius eventually learns that not only Dr. Kiti is cheating him. Even his wife Patricia (Mary Kimani) and most ‘devoted’ parishioner Imanass (Clement Ochieng) are doing so.
None of their tricks are exposed until after Kiti tells Pius ‘a story’. This is where the confusion comes. She says the drug can be risky as she had one case of a conman who accidentally died. Then she goes into the story. But is it a flashback in which Pius dramatizes her ‘conman’? Or is she actually referring to Pius the conman, or is it a farcical dream scenario, a sort of ‘what if’ she drugged Pius but then let him die? But how could a dream include Patricia’s and Imanass reveal their real-life ten-year affair? If a dream, how could Kiti disclose she’s the innocent whom he seduced and who subsequently gave birth to his child?
It’s total confusion which I guess the playwright felt was appropriate for farce. But however absurd a farce can be, there needs to be an underlying logic.
As the play ended, I wasn’t sure if Pius really died since he never gets the antidote in the ‘dream’, or he merely collapsed in shock at discovering Kiti has got him to sign away millions to her, Imanass and Patricia? Maybe I’m just thick, but it was hard to tell.





HOW FARCE CAN FRUSTRATE (first draft, written soon after I saw the show)

Not to be too critical (especially as I admire Talenta Yetu), but it must be said that farce is not the equivalent to overacting. And I saw a lot of the latter in their latest production, ‘Our Prophet says he is dead’.
One only needs to study masterful writers of farce like Moliere or Shakespeare to appreciate that a farce is one of the most difficult genres of theatre to write. The farcical elements emerge out of a credible story that becomes incredible out of logical circumstances.
Scripted and directed by Joseph Murunga, the play had a credible plot line, especially for Kenya where we have too many ‘prophets’ who are first class conmen like Prophet Pius Power (Fanuel Mulwa) who wants to ‘die’ and rise again like Jesus Christ with the aid of the doctor who’s agreed to provide the drug that will make him look dead. An antidote will induce the ‘resurrection’ but it must be taken in good time to ensure the nearly fatal drug’s effect is not permanent.
We meet Pius in a hotel room, but wonder why he’d choose that location to ‘die’. Wouldn’t it arouse suspicions? Why was he there? With whom? And when would his body be found?
Then there’s the ‘Doctor’ Kiti (Sybil Mukandutite). She’s got on a white hospital coat. But chewing gum and wearing a short jump suit aren’t exactly a professional’s style. Yet Pius doesn’t detect anything strange. Nor does he recognize Kiti as a girl he’d impregnated 18 years before. It’s his life on the line but he’s apparently so full of himself, he doesn’t realize he could be conned just as easily as he cons others.
But Pius eventually learns that not only Dr. Kiti is cheating him. Even his wife Patricia (Mary Kimani) and most ‘devoted’ parishioner Imanass (Clement Ochieng) are doing so.
None of their tricks are exposed until after Kiti tells Pius ‘a story’. This is where the confusion comes. She says the drug can be risky as she had one case of a conman who accidentally died. Then she goes into the story. But is it a flashback in which Pius dramatizes her ‘conman’? Or is she actually referring to Pius the conman, or is it a farcical dream scenario, a sort of ‘what if’ she drugged Pius but then let him die? But how could a dream include Patricia’s and Imanass reveal their real-life ten-year affair? If a dream, how could Kiti disclose she’s the innocent whom he seduced and who subsequently gave birth to his child?
It’s total confusion which I guess the playwright felt was appropriate for farce. But however absurd a farce can be, there needs to be an underlying logic.
As the play ended, I wasn’t sure if Pius really died since he never gets the antidote in the ‘dream’, or he merely collapsed in shock at discovering Kiti has got him to sign away millions to her, Imanass and Patricia? Maybe I’m just thick, but it was hard to tell.



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