OCTOBER nairobi theatre scene is booming

http://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/weekend/-October-shows-shaping-up-to-be-special/-/1220/2028542/-/qimmbv/-/index.html///OCTOBER’S THEATRE SHAPING UP TO BE SPECIAL /// BY Margaretta wa Gacheru, published early OCTOBER 2013///

John Sibi Okumu’s new play ELEMENTS stars Nathalie Vairac/October is shaping up to be a month filled with several premier performances, showcasing a number of exceptional Kenyan scriptwriters, including the veteran playwright John Sibi-Okumu and Walter Sitati, founder of Hearts of Art. We’ll also see original work by the Kenyan choreographer Kefe Oiro whose dance-drama has gone global and is now coming back to Nairobi this month.

In fact, Oiro and his Tuchangamke Group opened last night at the GoDown Art Center and will be staging a second show of his original production entitled ‘Mitumba’ tonight at the same venue. Performed in collaboration with another dancer-choreographer, Stephanie Thiersh and the German dance troupe, Company Mouvoir, Mitumba was Oiro’s inspired idea which he spawned in 2010 while doing a dance residency in Cologne, Germany, sponsored partially by the Goethe Institute of Munich and partly by the GoDown. Thiersh actually saw Oiro perform first in Dar es Salaam in 2008 and as artistic director of Company Mouvoir, she invited him to Cologne to do a solo dance project at the Company. It was there that Oiro proposed the idea of using the mitumba market concept as a metaphor for something much larger, the crazy wonderful way that Kenyans live their everyday lives. For even though mitumba refers to second hand ‘stuff’, Kenyans have the creative capacity to take other people’s cast-offs and transform them into lovely ensembles that can look beautiful and brand new. Stephanie loved the idea but the choreography wasn’t fully worked out until she came to Kenya in 2011 and explored a plethora of mitumba markets, from Ngara to Gikomba and Toy. Meanwhile, Oiro enlisted a number of Kenyan and Tanzanian dancers including Juliet Omolo, Judy Bwiri and Isaac Abeneko. Thiersch also involved several dancers from her Company Mouvoir as well. Mitumba premiered in Germany, in Cologne the same year, and it was so well received it got staged in half a dozen more cities, including Dusseldorf. Oiro and Thiersch had always planned to perform Mitumba in East Africa, so earlier this week they performed their contemporary dance-theatre in Dar es Salaam, and this weekend they’re all here in Nairobi. Meanwhile, other original productions premiering in Nairobi in two weeks’ time are John Sibi Okumu’s brand new play entitled Elements, featuring the Francophone actress from Guadeloupe, Nathalie Vairac and Hearts of Art’s episode two of What is your price? scripted by Walter Sitati and co-starring the writer together with Ellsey Akatch, Elvis Gatere, Beatrice Wacuka and several others. Sibi-Okumu, one of Kenya’s most prolific playwrights, television personalities and feature film stars (The First Grader, The Constant Gardener) actually has a day job teaching French at Hillcrest High. So it’s understandable that he’s finally scripted a play in French—with English subtitles that will be streaming simultaneously just above the Alliance Francaise stage when the show is on, the weekend of October 18th and 19th. So don’t be put off from coming if you can’t speak French fluently yourself. It would seem that Sibi-Okumu wrote Elements especially for Vairac who is a professional actress and one whose talents Sibi understood should not be wasted while she is here in Kenya with her family and may be leaving anytime. It’s a one-woman show which could only be pulled off with a professional performer like Vairac whose presence alone is quietly captivating. The same weekend, Walter Sitati’s theatre troupe, Hearts of Art makes a comeback in Episode 2 of his cliff-hanger of a play, What is your price? But even if you didn’t see the first segment of his script, it will be well worth theatre-lovers coming to see Episode 2. I thought the story was gripping and gutsy. My only grievance about it was it left us hanging and it wasn’t announced at the time that Act or episode 2 would be coming in a month. It’s one of those shows that you can catch up with easily, and it will be worth doing so, at Kenya National Theatre October 18th through 20th. Meanwhile, Festival of the Creative Arts will be in rehearsal throughout October to come back November 1st performing another outrageous comedy, the kind they do well called Do You Love Me, directed by Andrew Muthure. Finally, the final performance of Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolia can be seen tonight at the Professional Centre. Directed by Nyambura Waruingi and featuring the stellar all-female cast, this is a show you don’t want to miss.

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