Nairobi theatre: a comedic look at polygamy w.Phoenix Players

By Margaretta wa Gacheru
Posted july18, 2012
Saturday Nation, Nairobi
The Three Fold Cord (3FC), Phoenix Players’ current production running through July 21, is a multifaceted work that could conceivably be seen as presenting a credible case for polygamy!
Not that I approve of the lifestyle that Marcus Pennington enjoyed for many years. He’s one rich and powerful man who managed to find time in his hectic professional career to spread himself generously among three beautiful women, all of whom are devoted to the guy, each in her own way. And all of whom lead diverse and separate lives that never intersect until one fateful day.
One can’t help noting however that while the script was written by a British playwright, actor and director, its relevance and applicability to the African, and specifically the Kenyan context, is rather remarkable.
For example, in Kenya we also see men of fame and fortune wanting to flaunt their well-heeled status by acquiring a second or third wife. In fact, Scott Marshall’s script is one of the most easily indigenized plays that Phoenix Players have produced of late. This is largely because Kenyans know about the rich ‘sugar daddy’ who sets up a separate homestead with a ‘ndogo ndogo’ like the young prostitute in 3FC, Dexie, played with effervescence, beguiling charm and youthful enthusiasm by Devota Wambui.
We also know about men who ‘inherit’ the widows of their deceased brothers, which Marcus essentially did when his best friend Clifford died and left his lovely but lonely wife Millicent (Valentine Ziki) to become not just his mistress but his personal assistant (PA), thus providing her a cover for her to globe-trot with him around the world.  
Whether ‘senior wives’ in Kenya are as oblivious to their husband’s philandering as first wife Victoria appears to be, is questionable. But then, a number of Kenyan men claim they carouse with other women only after their wives ‘forget’ about them and get absorbed either in work, motherhood or other social events that leave them little time or inclination to romance with their spouse.
Certainly, Wambui Wamae Kamiru plays Victoria as being so self-absorbed and full of herself, her celebrity and acting career that one can almost understand why Marcus supposedly became a renowned womanizer long before he knew either Millicent or Dixie.
But whether one sees 3FC as offering a credible case for polygamy, or one interprets it from a radical feminist perspective that does not appreciate the dominant and inequitable role that Marcus plays vis a vis these three women, this show sparkles like a multifaceted gem for me: the main reason being the performance of the women, all of whom give powerful, persuasive portrayals of three strikingly different females.
There is also the issue of the play’s form which I find fascinating. The script presents a series of beautifully-written monologues that rhythmically run from one woman to the next. Each one has a distinct and very different perspective on their man who for some reason (which we discover at the play’s end) is never seen on stage. Instead, each woman paints a portrait of the man she knows and adores. In the process she reveals a great deal about herself.
Ultimately, Marcus comes off as a manipulative Cassanova, who could easily be a better actor (and juggler) than his celebrity actress wife. But then, all three women want him in their lives: Victoria for his social status and his being the father to their two disappointing daughters; Millie for his offering her solace and a brand new lifestyle; and Dixie, initially for his financial favors given in exchange for her fun-loving play in bed, but later for fathering their son ‘Clifford’ who he refuses to claim as his own, despite providing maintenance for his upbringing.
What finally makes 3FC a ‘must see’ show is the performance of the three charming women who constitute the ‘threefold cord’ that finally brings Marcus down. Under Millicent Ogutu’s deft direction, the three share the stage concurrently and in a way that captivates, since each character has her own style and set of strengths: Victoria her over-the-top theatricality, sweet Millicent with her marvelous voice, and Dixie whose free-spirited dance skills momentarily expand across the whole Phoenix stage.
The script never quite reveals what actually happened to the Big Man. But in light of the last scene and Dixie’s deliberate disruption of his monumental birthday bash, one imagines it could have been a cardiac arrest that made Marcus disappear!
Whatever the case, this show is all about one man’s living large and loving at least three amazing women simultaneously. The way the play ends definitely leaves one wondering: was it all worth it? You decide for yourself.

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