By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 23 October 2019)
Can a play start a revolution?
Can art affect social change to turn the world upside down in a matter of ‘Man Moments’?
Ask audiences that watched the premiere of Back to Basics’ wonderfully radical production last weekend. Devised by Mbeki Mwalimu and her B2B company, it was scripted and directed by Nick Ndeda.
Ndeda’s a man best known as an actor and radio host. But now he’ll be known for writing a play that makes fun of men’s frailties and reveals women’s unnerving capacity to be unabashed in saying what they think, irrespective of whether they offend men or not.
To his further credit, Nick also directed actors just as genius as he is. All were awesome and had their moments to shine and ‘tickle ribs’. None faltered, not in Act one which revolved around a murder, nor in Act 2 which morphed from being a ‘reality show’ hosted by Ian Mbugua, into a ‘game show’ in which three contestants (Bilal Mwaura, Tim King’oo and Ian Mbugua) were literally at the mercy of three women, the show’s host (Wakio Mzenge) and two ‘expert judges’ (Mwikali Mary and Auudi Rowa).
The show had its surrealistic moments, as in act one when the unfaithful spouse (Tim King’oo) transformed into a hungry wolf who stalked, then got stabbed by his prey, the wife (Auudi Rowa) who had a motive for murdering her man but who also seemed to act in self-defense.
The other surreal bit was the futuristic interlude between acts one and two. It’s apparently a metaphor for the core concern of the play, namely the nature of true manliness.
Ian Mbugua played the last man on earth who could still cry, meaning a man who could empathize, who had feelings. A scientific team had set out to find him and collect his tears which were believed to have magical powers to save a human race on the verge of extinction. Staged with heaps of humor, it was still a scene too deep to be an interlude. It needs to become a whole play.
Nonetheless, it served as a segue into the game show in which the three women shame and sexualize the men in ways meant to mirror what men typically do to women.
It was a bit ‘too bawdy’, the women ‘too brash’ for some men. But it was brilliant in my book. I’m calling on B2B to bring us more!
‘MAN MOMENTS’ ROUSES WOMEN’S RADICAL RESPONSE
By Margaretta wa Gacheru (original unedited review)
Can a play start a revolution?
Can social satire set off a spark that explodes so many stereotypes that one’s only left with the bare-boned truth?
Put another way, can art affect social change so rapidly that the world can get turned upside down in a matter of ‘Man Moments’?
Ask audiences that watched the premiere performance of Back to Basics’ wonderfully radical production last weekend. Its original concept came from B2B founder Mbeki Mwalimu. But it was devised with input from the troupe as a team, and then scripted and directed by Nick Ndeda.
Ndeda’s a man best known as an actor and radio host with such a smooth, honey-sweet voice one could listen to him all day. But now that it’s known he has the capacity to write a play that makes great fun of men’s frailties and reveals women’s unnerving capacity to be shameless, daring and unabashed in their freedom to say and do what they think, irrespective of whether they offend male sensibilities or not, Ndeda could be ‘dirt’ in the minds of some ‘suck-it-up’ kinds of hard-core guys.
He was only stitching together ideas that had come out collectively from the team. Nonetheless, he wrote it so well that he deserves to claim credit for writing as well as directing a troupe of actors who are just as brilliant as he is.
One can hardly say that any one actor was more awesome than the other. All had their opportunity to shine and ‘tickle ribs’ with their ingenious performances. None of them faltered for a moment, not in Act one which revolved around a murder nor in Act 2 which morphed from being a reality show (hosted by Ian Mbugua) into a game show where three male contestants (Ian Mbugua, Bilal Mwaura and Tim King’oo) were literally at the mercy of three women, the show’s host (Wakio Mzenge) and her two ‘expert judges’ (Mwikali Mary and Auudi Rowa).
There were surrealistic elements to the show, as for instance, in act one after we had seen the woman’s (Auudi Rowa’s) frustrations with her unfaithful man (Tim King’oo). We see she had a motive for stabbing him multiple times. But then how did he turn into the wolf that she had to finish or be finished? Was the wolf a figment of her imagination that empowered her to do what had been in her subconscious mind since she realized he was an unfaithful beast? Probably, but whether that was it or not, the wolf mask was beautifully made. The arrival of a second female wolf was more than I could fathom however in this well-paced play.
The other wonderfully anomalous bit in the show was the futuristic interlude between what I call acts one and two. It was a fascinating way of introducing one of the core concepts being addressed in Man Moments, namely the nature of true manliness.
Ian Mbugua played the one last man on the planet who could still cry. The mission of the scientific expedition team that found him was to collect his tears to take back to their lab to reproduce. “Mankind” was supposedly at the verge of extinction and his tears were thought have the magic power that could save humans from self-imploding.
The absurdity of the supposed unmanliness of men weeping provided an excellent segue into the game show where the three women shamed and sexualized the men in ways meant to mirror what men typically do to women on a daily basis.
Ian Mbugua was the first man to accuse the women of impropriety for their crass, bawdy language. But he was easily shot down by the women who were unrelenting in their nonstop abuse that only the Rastafari ‘virgin’ (King’oo) was okay with, just because he didn’t get it.
Act two was where, for me, the revolution was born. For the women’s hilarious jokes were all at the expense of men who hadn’t caught on to the reality that the world has changed and women aren’t going to take minimizing stereotypes anymore.
Ndeda’s script was perfectly pitched as the ‘experts’ were merciless in their embodiment of men’s worst attitudes towards women which were now turned back on the men.
In real life, Mbugua, Mwaura and King’oo were great sports as they spoofed themselves and showed off the realities of patriarchy as well as the way male privilege can be shot down easily by women willing to do it. And ever so playfully as they did in ‘Man Moments’.