By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 14 October 2019)
‘Man Moments’ takes its title from one of the best segments of the previous show staged by Back to Basics earlier this year. In ‘Breeze 2’, Ian Mbugua, wearing an elegant lounge jacket, introduced us to ‘Man Moments’ which were witty, worldly, insightful and wildly funny scenes satirically exposing the man’s perspective.
These were the moments that the show’s producer, Mbeki Mwalimu chose to be the springboard for devising an entire show around a similar concept, only adding several twists and turns of tongue.
Premiering last night at Alliance Francaise and running through the weekend, these ‘Man Moments’ are very different from the Breeze 2 type, except that they too will bring to light the inner thoughts of men, but also of women. They too will be worldly, witty and uproariously hilarious. But the show itself could very well come down as the most contested and controversial play of 2019.
No one should shy away from seeing it, however. It’s bold, brilliant and steeped in a satirical view of male-female relationships.
Designed as a sort of live reality show in which the first act takes the form of a flashback on current events, the second act morphs into a marvelous game show moderated by Wakio Mzenge.
I don’t want to be a spoiler and give away the plot, but I will say the show is provocative. It also pushes boundaries on various notions of respectability and protocol. But then, act two caters for that concern. There’s a character, again played by Ian Mbugua who, like the rest of the cast, is ‘double booked’ as more than one character in the play. So be forewarned and not confused.
For instance, Ian comes back at the end of the show, again playing the venerable anchor of ‘Man Moments’. But in act two, he plays one of the three male contestants (Bilal Mwaura and Tim Kingoo are the other two) who have come to play the game and try to win big bucks in the process.
But clearly, all three guys don’t have a clue what they are getting themselves into. They will essentially be put through a mental meat-grinder by the ‘female experts’ who are the judges in this game. Mary Mwikali and Auudi Rowa conspire with lively moderator Wakio to take on countless gender stereotypes.
I won’t say much more except to note that many women have complained about the way they are typically treated by men, either as sex objects or second-class citizens who don’t get their fair share of respect. So in act two, the tables are turned.
“We expect some people to feel uncomfortable about the second act, but that’s okay,” says Mbeki who trusts the show will be illuminating.
The first act will also be full of surprises. But unlike Act two, it takes shape as a series of impactful vignettes, each of which reveals various challenges that couples face in their relationships.
In the process, multiple facets of men’s relations to things other than their women crop up. Director Nick Ndeda (who also directed Breeze Two) took time off during one weekend rehearsal to share some of the concepts the group wanted to address in ‘Man Moments’. They included everything from men and money to men and social expectations to infidelity and what happens between men and women as a consequence.
‘Nick is the one who actually wrote the script,” says Mbeki, acknowledging that he had to artistically assemble and refine all of their brainstorming ideas. But it was she who set the whole creative process in motion.
In the actual writing, Nick uses media as a metaphor for the nature of social relations and how few secrets are kept in a society where social media are combined with ‘breaking news’ TV and radio broadcasts that the public are attuned to.
Back to Basics is one of Nairobi’s youngest theatre troupes. But they have been consistent in creating fresh, illumining shows that challenge us to think deeply at the same time as we have great fun. We appreciate their originality as well as the quality of their shows. It’d be wise to get tickets in advance so you will be assured to get a seat.
Meanwhile, this evening at Hillcrest School from 6pm, the Youth Theatre Kenya are teaming up with the National Youth Music Theatre to stage a performance to display what they’ve learned in a recent workshop.