This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Another handshake? No, Igiza show another way in 'Kneading Needs'


Another handshake? No, Igiza show another way in 'Kneading Needs'

Tuesday June 13 2023

President Okuzo (Jeff Obonya) and his political rival Busisa (Javan Barasa) sign an MOU at Kenya Cultural Centre on June 5, 2023. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

It’s time for theatre companies to start taking seriously the problem of set design.

Some have begun putting contemporary art on the walls of their sets. But then, when scenes change, yet the art remains the same, it can be disorienting if you, the viewer, are meant to be in the moment with the cast.

My problem this past weekend was the opening scene of Igiza Players’ satire, Kneading Needs, which was staged at Kenya Cultural Centre. The art on the walls went well with much of the play since it was mainly set in offices of political leaders.

But this opening apparently took place in the village where Kibali (Kennedy Kithia) had returned to see his parents after having won a senatorial election. The scene is rural, even as Kibali’s innocence and idealism are fresh and optimistic. But the set design doesn’t relate to the location of the scene’s action.

Plus, the poverty of Kibali’s parents is made known by the mama, who reveals the bank is coming to foreclose on their property since they have no means to repay a loan.

The son reassures her he will soon be earning a senatorial salary, which (is substantial and) will enable him to get back their land. That’s fine, but now, why can’t producers pay as much attention to set design as they do to acting, lights, and sound?

Otherwise, the story that unfolded last weekend at KCC was like a theatrical Gado cartoon, a snapshot of what is most troubling in Kenyan society of late. But more than that, it takes specific events and weaves them all together so that we see a phenomenon like Maandamano within a wider weave of Kenyan politics in real-time.

Playwright Sigu Nyerere even gave us characters comparable to an opposition leader like Raila Odinga in Busisa (Javan Barasa) and a President like William Ruto in Okuzo (Jeff Obonyo).

He also gave us an idealistic young MP like Kibali who is prepared to stand with his constituents, the vast majority of Kenyans who need better health care, education opportunities, job opportunities, roads, electricity, and above all, better leaders.

Nyerere, the scriptwriter, also gave us a woman who might mirror a prayerful true believer like Mrs Ruto in President Okuzo’s wife, Oluyele (Lucy Milkah Wangui). One doesn’t know if the First Lady has ever spoken so sternly, directly, or critically of her spouse’s conduct as Oluyele does in the play.

But if she has, we should regard her as the conscience of the nation since Oluyele is ferocious in her verbal attack on her husband over his thieving ways, ways that rob the wananchi of the food that they need.

One is amazed that the playwright allowed her to stay around and didn’t have her husband, the President, banish her for her forthright way of seeing him for the ‘sinner’ that he is.

One is also amazed that Oluyele remains with this crook, but there is just a hint that she actually enjoys sharing the power that her man has. Doesn’t that look like she, too, is self-serving in that she sees the whole picture of corruption, yet as much as she critiques it and lets him know she sees it all, yet she still won’t walk away?


President Okuzo (Jeff Obonya) is massaged by his wife Oluyele (Lucy Wangui) in Kneading Needs play at Kenya Cultural Centre on June 5, 2023. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

In the end, it’s the young MP who had been shot during a Maadamano, and all assume either he died in the assault or he is holding onto life by a thread. Either way, he is virtually gone, leaving the President to believe that all his critics are also silenced. He is wrong, of course.

The final scene finds Kibali rising from the “dead”, in this case, a hospital bed, and leading a new revolution for peaceful change. His final speech is powerful and persuasive. He tells the two leaders, Busisa and Okuzo, that another negotiated handshake or even a truce isn’t good enough. It only signals that they are prepared to share the wealth that should be fairly distributed within the wider community and nation, not simply between themselves.

There’s a clamouring of people right outside, but neither so-called leader claims responsibility. So, who could be leading them, they ask? That’s when Kibali bursts into their room and dismisses their truce.

The peaceful demonstration that he is leading is a true revolutionary force. It’s nonviolent and meant to suggest that another kind of Maandamano is possible. Maybe yes, maybe no. We’ll have to wait and see.

→ [email protected]