By Maryanne Nyambura
My love for stage plays took me to Kiambu County, Thika town. ’ANIKA MWATU’ by Vunana Arts Africa was the play that got me there. The title in my simple translation means ‘hang the beehives’. In a long time I saw a play that did try to marry the title to their story line.
The play revolves around a couple; Mumbi, played by Grace Wangui and Gichuki, played by Acquinas Karanja. The man of the house is into bee keeping and he has got a specific person to hang the beehives Mwaniki, played by Vehum Wahome. The couple got a house help, Kabaya played by Wanjiku Kabaya. In the house, a brother to Gichuki; Kung’u, played by Joseph Mbiu lives with them too.
As the story unfolds we find out that Mumbi has a keen interest in Mwaniki. Gichuki is dissatisfied in Mwaniki’s way of working and he decides to fire him. The wife defends him and insists that he should not be fired. In her quest to have him remain at their home, she says how she loves his work. She is lost in the sweet stupor of explaining how good his work is. My problem there was how calm Gichuki was since it was evident Mumbi was interested in Mwaniki.
Their crazy house girl who is a village girl trying to adapt and cope with the city life has an affair with the same Mwaniki guy. At another instance we see Kabaya got an existing relationship with Kung’u. Kabaya played her role well as the crazy help. To save herself from different situations she was ready to ‘hang the beehive’ for anyone interested.
The title was used in a hidden meaning to mean have a sexual affair with or to let out some important information out. So in any instance that we saw someone in a sexual situation it was said they were ‘hanging the beehive’.
Kabaya found out of the affair between her boss and Mwaniki. In return she was promised a salary raise so as to keep her mouth shut on what was happening.
My issue was as much as they made the story catchy it was just cliché. Being an original script they should have had a twist somewhere. With this kind of play the trick is to have a turn somewhere. The show took some time to pick up. Some pace would have done the piece some great favor. I also lacked stage business. The characters were there to speak lines and leave.
Some emphasis would have been good to show the relationship between Mumbi’s business to the story. It was mentioned and didn’t get a reference again. The story got to a stagnant bit somewhere in the middle maybe that’s something to look into in their next productions.
The stage needed some improvement. But that I would attribute to the space limitation. They should invest a little bit more in lights and sound system though it wasn’t so bad.
In this piece people knew their place. They all understood their roles and worked in those limits. The drivers of the show knew their role and played it with little effort. The main scorers knew their job too and delivered their lines well. Kung’u won my heart. The guy is so calm and collected he never disappoints. He knew what to say and when. As Mwaniki started the show he was an elderly guy. He spoke like one and acted it too. Somewhere along the way he lost it and by the end of the show his makeup was all out. My question was, why did you choose to be an old man?
In the end the last twist was uncalled for. When we saw Kabaya was expectant I hoped she would be lost who the father of her baby would be. As much as the three men were tense, it would have been better to end I on a confused state she did not know who among the three got her pregnant.
To Vehum for doing a good job on the writing of the script, directing and acting in the same it must have been a great effort to juggle the roles and still pull a good show.
To the makers of Anika Mwatu and the whole Vunana Arts Africa crew it’s CONGRATULATIONS from me! Being a new group and this being your first show you did not disappoint! The show was great, with a few adjustments to be made you will do greater shows in the future. You did the audience justice and on that note you must have done good marketing the numbers were encouraging!
Looking forward to the next show from Vunana Arts Africa.