JACKY VIKE: A KENYAN STAR IS BORN

JACKY VIKE STARS ON STAGE, IN FILM, ON TV AND EVEN IN YOUTUBE BY MARGARETTA WA GACHERU Published in Saturday Nation, 29 March 2013 You may have seen her on NTV in Wash and Set playing Mildred, the naughty school girl who specializes in spreading rumors. Or you might have watched her playing the housegirl in Papa Shirandula on Citizen TV. And surely you couldn’t have missed her playing the baby ‘Hoe” in Nairobi Half Life. You might have even seen her on You Tube costarring in the current Web Series called Simiyu Samarai. But if you haven’t yet watched Jacky Vike playing the young orphan and heroine Roxana in the latest S.A.F.E. film production, Ni Sisi, then you haven’t yet seen her acting in a role that lets her spread her theatrical wings fully and fly out into a realm where she soars as one of Kenya’s most promising young actresses. Jacky has only been acting professionally for the past few years, having taken a leap of faith when she was just 18 to pursue a career that neither of her parents had approved of, but which she wanted passionately to try. “It was only my secondary school drama teacher who felt I had talent and should go for it,” she said. Fortunately, once she auditioned and got a part acting in set texts and traveling around the country-side with Theatrix Arts Ensemble, she got her people’s approval. And since then, she has not only worked with some of Kenya’s finest stage, film, radio and TV producers and directors – including everyone from Tosh Gitonga and Tom Tykwer (Nairobi Half Life) to Kamau wa Ndungu and Nick Reding (Ni Sisi) to David Aliwa (Theatrix Arts) and Peter Mudamba (KBC Radio) to Sammy Mwangi and Victor Ber (Heartstrings Kenya). She has acted in plays by everyone from Shakespeare and Cajeton Boy to scripts collectively devised by Heartstrings Kenya and S.A.F.E. Ghetto. She’s also acted everywhere from the Kenya National Theatre and local prime time TV to schools, churches and social halls all around the country. What’s more, it hasn’t only been with Theatrix Arts that she’s performed all across Kenya. She also did it with The Theatre Company when Keith Pearson cast her in a musical [which she helped choreograph] and took his cast all around the Rift Valley as part of TTC’s annual ‘Five by Ten’ Drama Festival. And more than a year before Ni Sisi was made into the film that premiered right before Kenya’s March 4th general elections Jacky was playing the strong, discerning Roxana while performing the same script live for literally thousands of Kenyans who came out all over the land to see SAFE Kenya’s free open-air productions. It was a show that entertained at the same time as it roused popular awareness about the paramount value of peace and about how not to be fooled around by self-serving politicians. Having the good fortune to discover her primary passion for acting back in primary school in Nairobi, Jacky actually got started performing with her dad who played the guitar and sang in church. “My dad used to accompany me as I sang all the Sunday School hymns. I started singing when I was around five,” said Jacky who claims she does more dancing than singing these days. “I’ve had to learn how to juggle my dancing with my acting,” she said, noting that since 2009 she’s been meeting with friends regularly at Kenya National Theater where they share their dance skills, doing everything from Hip hop, Afro-fusion and Salsa to contemporary dance and a novel new step known as Kapwera. She had to put her dancing on hold while she toured with Ni Sisi, but she says she’s getting back to it soon and she still does yoga whenever she has time. A child of the Kenya Schools Drama Festival, Jacky recalls that she first went to the festival doing a Luo dance with classmates from Heshima Primary School in Eastlands. By secondary, she headed to the Drama Festival every year, having been mentored by her drama teacher who was the first person to assure her she had a talent and ought to pursue it at any and all costs. Her parents weren’t keen, but after a year studying tourism [as her mother had wished], Jacky was convinced she wasn’t interested in doing anything else by act. It was that conviction that has been with her ever since and is the main reason why she goes to nearly every audition she hears about, be it from a friend, from Facebook or from a bulletin board notice. It has been those auditions which have changed Jacky’s life since they have not only helped her break into the local theatre scene. It was auditions that got her the part of ‘the Hoe’ in Nairobi Half Life, as well as the part of Mildred in the popular TV series ‘Wash and Set’. Auditions were also what enabled her to get into Heartstrings Kenya after she left the set text scene with the aim of expanding her theatrical horizons. However, auditions are not what got her the part of Roxana in Ni Sisi. That happened because she read the bulletin board at the National Theatre in 2008 soon after the post-election violence subsided and an ad hoc group named Actors for Peace called Kenyan thespians to volunteer to put in a performance to fundraise for the IDPs. “That was the first time I met Kamau wa Ndungu [one of the SAFE Kenya producers}. After that, I used to see him around. We also acted together in Nairobi half life, and it was after that that he called me and asked if I could understudy for the role of Roxana since the actress playing the part [Trizah Wairimu] was getting busy as she had just got a part in the popular TV series, Makutano Junction. That was Jacky’s big break. “Whenever Trizah was free, she would go with the company, but when she had other commitments, I got called. Then when the filming of Ni Sisi began, it was Nick [Reding, the co-director with Kamau and founder of SAFE Kenya] who asked me to do Roxana in the film. They also gave Trizah another part.” Roxana together with her village comrades, Schola and Jabali (Joseph Wairimu, who also starred as Mwas in Nairobi Half Life), turned out to be the heroes both on stage and in the film. They cleverly figured out the sneaky tactics of the conniving politician Mzito (Peter King) who planned to trick the villagers to voting him into office. But it was the way the three outwitted and exposed Mzito in the end that audiences especially liked and learned so much from. Today, Jacky is wide open as to whatever opportunities open up for her next, since despite her getting a monthly stipend from Citizen TV for acting regularly in Papa Shirandula, she sees herself as a free lance actor. But as she has practically been working non-stop since she went to that first audition at the National Theatre, don’t expect Jacky Vike to be out of the public eye for long. Whatever comes next for her, there’s little doubt it’s going to be a success. [Ni Sisi has been in the cinema at both Prestige Plaza and the Village Market. But if you can’t catch the film in either place, you can get a copy online by emailing hello@safekenya.org. ]

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