By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 8 May 2019 for 11 May)
How many men do we know who find themselves in the same dire predicament as Joseph (Nick Kwach).
He lost his job eight months back and fears telling his wife Brenda about it. Instead, he lies to her and everyone else. But with his few business prospects having flopped, his savings dried up, the bills piling high, Joe looks like he’s nearly come to the end of his rope.
He owes the landlady, the house maid Eunice and various other Shylocks. Meanwhile, he’d lent a bundle to someone who’d promised to pay back but instead, disappeared.
What makes things worse is his uppity wife who detects there’s something fishy about her hubby’s behavior, but she doesn’t know what. She suspects it’s another woman. So when she accuses him of having a second wife, he doesn’t deny it quick enough. Instead, he says “I confess…’, not completing the sentence since that’s enough to trigger her jumping the gun and concluding she was correct. She fumes, fusses and finally walks out.
Now he’s seriously desperate. It doesn’t help when Zebediah (Victor Nyaata), the landlady’s messenger comes for the rent. Knowing he’s not going to get it, this wily peasant has secretly put Nick’s flat online for rent at a much higher price than the landlady asks. In any case, she doesn’t know and neither does Nick until a Stranger (Cyprian Osoro) shows up with a bag of cash, ready to book Nick’s flat there and then.
Once Nick’s figures out the Stranger’s intent and sees six-months’ worth of rent plus deposit money in the bag, Nick can’t resist. He pretends to be the landlord and takes the cash as if it’s manna from heaven.
All hell breaks loose after that. First the Stranger’s wife shows up, followed thereafter by Brenda who is now prepared to forgive her spouse. But before he has a chance to explain the Strangers who have already moved into their bedroom, a cop shows up and the jig is up!
It turns out the Stranger is actually a big-time crook who’s got a warrant out for his arrest. He not only forges money; he also launders the fake stuff.
Obviously, the cash the Stranger has handed Joe is fake, but Joe still tries to defend the Stranger. The cop picks up on Joe’s allegiance to the crook and assumes he must be an accomplice to the crook’s crimes.
This means Joe will go to jail along side the Stranger. But he doesn’t mind since he sees it as a form of justice. Besides, he’s got nothing better to do.
It’s a stark finale, especially since Joe is just a good guy who’s down on his luck. Nick Kwach does a good job blending humor and pathos and making you feel from the outset that Joe may be a charmer but he is also a desperate man.
Like so many poor people who feel they have no recourse other than resorting to crime as the most basic survival tactic, Joe gets caught before he even gets a chance to make amends.
Heartstrings may not look like they produce political theatre, but definitely ‘Odd One Out’ is a critical comment on the current economic conditions in Kenya where millions are jobless and needing hope for how to make a productive life for themselves..
In the end, Joe tells Brenda he lost his job many months ago but didn’t dare tell her. She now claims she’ll support him no matter what. But sadly, that is easier to say now that he is on the way out the door.