By Joel Benjamin Ntwatwa
Ugandan writer, Lloyd Lutara walked onto the stage in a red t-shirt and announced “…the world premiere of Strings.”
For some, perhaps those words meant little, but to a number, especially those aware of the successes of the playwright, Angella Emurwon, they were a big deal.
Her play won the 2012 BBC International Playwriting Competition – Sunflowers Behind a Dirty Fence. In simple terms, she was the best in the whole world and that award was witness of her enduring creative prowess. Now, when you meet her, she might be the most unassuming person but creatively, you would have met a versatile, empathetic, funny but thoughtful person.
This is a bit of what you get to experience when you watch her play, “Strings”. Before I tell why I think this is one of those masterpieces, let me remind you that a renown world playwright, who happens to be Ugandan, released her play on Ugandan soil at the opening of the 4th Kampala International Festival.
For the festival, this brings not just quality but tested mastery.
Listening and watching the play proceed, you immediately notice Angella is good at words. Not just words but meaningful words. However more than words, observing and relaying well how society, family, and people relate with each other, the playing out of conflict, uncertainty, need for security, and more.
Her choice of story and characters is witty. Not too many to ask who is who, not too few for a narrowed perspective. There are great lines like “Tomorrow is like an empty coffin in the middle of the road.” “You may not like an itch but scratching has its own sweetness.” Beautiful lines that came alive thanks to how well invested the actors were.
The actors cannot be ignored because they brought an ease and believability. It could be said that experience works well, such as for Okuyo Atiku Prynce, who has been in several productions and has won an Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Kagayi’s spoken word influence could be felt but one cannot say one did the better job, if that can be said, I’d pick the character of Lokir, Junior and Leah. However, they did a great job together.
The setting is a home. All the action happens here. The humour, the betrayal, the sadness all happen here regardless the fact there are other locations that affect the way the story moves. In essence, Angella is using relationships outside the house and giving them exposition in the house. In how the mother relates with her husband’s brother, how the daughter relates with the seemingly aloof brother, the typical lugambo neighbour and the hearty “coffin maker” whose purpose serves what the story is, in my opinion, talking about:
We stop ourselves from living if we allow the strings of our circumstances to hold us down. This is very simplistically said though, one needs to watch the play to understand what I mean, rather what I think Angella is saying. She both wrote and directed the play and you could see she was happy with the outcome as was the crowd that gave a standing ovation when the curtains (lights) went down.
There is so much to say but come watch the play, perhaps you will also give the standing ovation the audience gave and think about the strings or whether there are strings on you.
Photography : James Wasswa