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ENOUGH WITH THE MEDIOCRE PLAYS WITH NO SHELF LIFE

Gerald Langiri
May 22 / 2012

Kenyan drama like the sloth, is no doubt shrugging of the mould that has been a characteristic feature of its existence. In recent years, more people no doubt are trooping albeit trudgingly to theatre halls for a piece of what in my opinion is one of the most fulfilling past times known to man. I must admit, I do not attend as many shows as I would like for obvious and not so obvious reasons.

See, I was brought up in a society that is so caught up on bread and butter issues that entertainment is always the last thing one fits in their budget. Even when it comes first, meaningful entertainment rarely has a place in our mediocre society. Why would a sane Kenyan ‘throw’ away 500-1000 shillings; an equivalent of eight frothy bottles enjoyed in a daze whilst cheering for a virtual team for a group of Wasaniis trying to etch out a living?

Kenyans are also incorrigibly in the habit of aping. Like their distant cousins the apes, few dare stray from the shelter of the mob and those brave enough are left to their own devices till they strike oil then everyone idolises them.

Comedy is a casing point that was simmering for ages with its artists starving but when the fad caught on, every media outlet and event is hosted by comedians.

What is the point of this piece you might be asking? A challenge. As the giant that is the theatre industry re-awakens, a challenge of wit is what I pose to both play wrights and theatre lovers alike reading this. For theatre to maintain its rightful spot as a relaxing form of education, longevity of plays created is essential lest we regress back into empty halls.

In my opinion for this to happen, writers need to hone their skills not only by writing the plays but by reading and researching what others have (an inexpensive way of mastering ones skill if you ask me). This will stamp out mediocre material from the stage with no shelf life and competitive edge paving way for those that can hold their own on the international stage.

This will also prevent embarrassing incidents like the one I had with an aspiring playwright.

Question: Do you know of the playwright William Shakespeare?

Answer: Yes I have.

 Question: Okay, no doubt you have. Name one play he has written.

Answer: ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Question: Now, Do you know of playwright Wole Soyinka?

Answer: Him too.

Question: Right, I believe you. Name one play he has written.

Answer: Ummmh...pass

            For the writer, ‘Learning at the feet of masters is the first step in becoming a master’.

            For the theatre enthusiast, ‘You can only enjoy what you comprehend’.

So like any enterprise, begin small with what is easily available before progressing to other shores; Imbugas and Rugandas then maybe to Fugards with a sprinkling of Soyinkas enhanced with Becketts then maybe, just maybe, the true essence of Absurdity or Tragedy will not sound so alien.

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