By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 5 June 2019 for 7 June)
When both Amnesty International and the Kenya Human Rights Commission endorse a play like ‘Deliberate Contempt’ by Hearts of Art, then you know theatre arts aren’t only for entertainment. They can also enlighten, educate and even make their audience want to join the ‘revolution of the mind’ that Mufasa the Poet speaks about at the end of this sequel to ‘Necessary Madness’ (NM1) by Walter Sitati.
Sitati already staged the sequel once last month. But each time he addresses the topic of Kenya-styled corruption -- be it on the roads, in the hospitals or among the police, he seems to get more eloquent and his cast more inspired.
The only problem is that as his characters deepen and develop in NM2, one can’t help feeling you needed to see NM1 to understand how each one evolves as the story unfolds.
For instance, the Governor (Benson Ojuwa) displays the full extent of his corruption in NM1. The fact that his daughter Ziki (Azziad Nasenya) dies in a matatu he owns and has instructed Officer Dakarai (Peter Kawa) to let pass, despite its not being roadworthy, isn’t easily understood without having seen NM1.
One also can’t fully understand how the once-happy family of Dakarai has fallen apart due to the split between conscience, cherished by the mum (Veronica Waceke) and daughter Nessa, (Frazier Chilande) and its erosion as experienced by the dad, without seeing NM1.
Nonetheless, it wouldn’t have been advised to stay away from ‘Deliberate Contempt’ just because you’d missed NM1. The Governor is still cynically self-serving, and NM2 has the benefit of Gilbert Lukalia coming in as the Gov’s overbearing but morally upright dad who drains the hubris out of his son.
Both NM1 and NM2 display Ziki’s ‘joie de vivre’. The free-spirited daughter of the Governor dies at the end of NM1. But Sitati brings her back in her best friend Nessa’s dreams in NM2, the after-life handled delicately and quite naturally by the writer.
But the voice of the people that provides the most rousing moments of the play is that of Mufasa, whose powerful words close the show.
The previous version of NM2 saw the Gov and his advocate (Nick Ndeda) manage to corrupt the system so that both Gov and Dakarai get off. This time, Sitati leaves it open-ended with Mufasa’s salient message: change will come when we change.