Loving theatre when you are a Ugandan tends to make you an outlier. Like Nyana Kakoma jokes in her blog about the KITF2014 you tend to arouse questions like, “are you one of those culturally mzungu Ugandans who also loves bird watching? Imagine then, how far outlying you’ll come off as, when you say, “I love musical theatre.” Trust me; I have said this to people. Their reactions go something like, “umm… that would also make you an 80 year old white lady on holiday from California.” If after that you still love musical theatre, your next struggle will be that you are perennially even more starved than the regular Ugandan theatre lover. Let’s see; there was a 2012 local rendition of Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat at the National Theatre and a series of Mama Mia productions at La Bonita in 2011 and 2012, but for the most part, musical theatre lovers have to subsist on the occasional inclusion of a Broadway show-tune in ‘extravaganza’ type performances. This is why Eric Wainana’s DJ Lwanda at the just concluded KITF 2014 was such a treat!
DJ Lwanda is a story about a local community radio DJ in Kwa Maji, a slum in Nairobi. On the one hand, DJ Lwanda and his female co-presenter strive to stir the community away from the all too familiar tribal differences that are storming up in the face of an impending election. On the other, he must step up & guide his at-risk brother towards a useful adult — if only to reassure his poor mother who raised them on income from the less than pleasant smelling local brew.
The story however was just a part of the offering. Delivered in songs set to Wainana’s signature music bed, a blend of tribal drums and guitars, the performance was a successful experiment in authentically local musical theatre.
<Warning: Here starts a moment of snobbery> Of course it isn’t really musical theatre unless the actors can actually sing birds out of the trees. No names here, but way too many of the actors in those local renditions of Broadway classics can’t sing. Cue in miming to track 5 on the CD. <Ends moment of snobbery>
Luckily for the theatre goers who came to KITF2014, it wasn’t only Wainana’s at once ancient yet contemporarily beautiful singing they were treated to. His lady co-actor, Susan Kerunen is quite the songster herself. Maybe when KITF2015 comes to town next year, we’ll see her co-star in a fully produced performance of DJ Lwanda. The KITF2014 performance was halfway between a theatrical reading and a produced recital. That according to the organizers was by design as part of their goal was to show artists that one didn’t have to first go all the way to sometimes prohibitively expensive production, costumes and full casting before they could bring their work to the public. The theatre goers in attendance didn’t seem to disagree too much with that premise. The room was full.
Post by: Lydia Namubiru
Picture by: KITF2014