The staging of the much acclaimed musical Sarafina that was scheduled to kick off at the Nakuru Players theatre has been postponed to next month.
The play staged by the Nairobi Performing Arts Studio was to debut on Tuesday evening at the invitation of Governor Lee Kinyanjui, under the sponsorship of various organizations including the County government in a venture crafted to market the region as a movie making and performing arts destination.
Sarafina is a re-enactment of a popular South African anti-apartheid musical film by the same name that was released in 1988. It highlights the struggle for freedom in Soweto, South Africa, just before anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela was released in 1990.
The governor confirmed that his administration had approached the Nairobi Performing Arts Studio to stage the play in Nakuru after realizing that the devolved unit was teeming with aspiring artists whose talent was untapped. He assured the residents that the event was still on course.
“Due to a few logistical issues we have rescheduled the staging of Sarafina. The County administration is committed to marketing Nakuru as a movie destination. We are alive to the fact that the region has a huge untapped pool of aspiring artists who spend time at the Players Theatre. It’s time to bring people back to the theatres by staging stories they can closely relate to.
I challenge Directors, Producers and thespians to explore many themes that can be re-enacted into stage plays such as the Happy Valley in Nyandarua, Luanda Magere, Gikuyu and Mumbi, Mekatili wa Menza, Lord Egerton Castle in Nakuru, the Mau Mau struggles among others,” he said.
Last year, Kinyanjui officially inaugurated the Nakuru Players Theatre after months of renovation where a modern recording studio was set up.
The county is set to sign a memorandum of understanding with Kabarak University to refocus music and other performing arts for sustainable development.
Under the partnership, the university’s School of Music and Performing Arts and the Nakuru Players’ Theatre will work closely in nurturing talent and knowledge sharing among artists.
Nairobi Performing Arts Studio director Stuart Nash said Sarafina show had been staged 12 times at the Kenya National Theatre (KNT) in Nairobi between July 18th and 28th this year.
The award winning reenactment of Soweto students’ militant resistance to the oppressive apartheid regime is blended by live music and grand choreography.
Thousands of theatre enthusiasts, drama and musical teachers and adjudicators are expected to pitch tent in Nakuru to witness the show’s debut in the county.
Sheila Mwavinya, who featured in Wanuri Kahiu’s film, Rafiki, plays the main character Sarafina with Helen Mtawali taking up the support role as her mother. Martin Githinji has been casted as Constable Sabela, a savage traitor-like black cop who is eventually lynched by Sarafina and other Soweto youth.
“We are devoting more energy in songs, spoken dialogue, acting and dance to narrate our stories,” said Mr Stuart while revealing that he had also acquired rights to stage the Nairobi Half Life.
Mr Stuart observed the county had a good number of artists whom if they get exposure can make it big in the filming industry. The Nairobi Half Life is a 2012 Kenyan drama film directed by David “Tosh” Gitonga about an aspiring actor who travels from upcountry to Nairobi but ends up in a crime web.
Stuart announced that Nairobi Performing Arts Studio will also stage The Lion King, a Kenyan-shot sequel animated musical film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation.
“Nakuru has numerous factors that favour it as a film making destination. It has untapped talent, the necessary geographical features and an active Players Theatre. Sustained stage play shows here will revive performing arts in the country which has been overshadowed by westernized cinemas” he stated.
Nakuru County Gender, Culture and Social services Chief Officer Ms Tumme Abduba said growing interest in theatre with local content is unearthing Nakuru as a global filming destination.
“We are promoting theatre with local content so as to enable thespians earn a living. We also want to ensure the Players Theatre attracts even tourists who visit Nakuru.
In Europe, there are live performances every other evening across cities that make tourists spend another night. That’s the Nakuru we want,” she said.
The proposed staging of Sarafina comes a few months after 10 countries converged in Nakuru for the Lake International Pan African Film Festivals (LIPAFF), a platform that besides bringing the artists across the continent to interact also gave a boost to the growing love for theatre. This year Nakuru will host LIPAFF for the second year in a row.
Further, a film dubbed Ole Naibon, and shot at Hells Gate National Park which advocates for environmental protection is also lined up for production in a bid to build capacity among artistes.
The Sarafina show that will be staged in Nakuru for the first time after Mombasa and Nairobi has an array of tickets going for Sh1,000 (advance), Sh1,500(Gate), Group of 7 for Sh6,000 and Sh1,500 (VIP).
In 2017, Nairobi Performing Arts Studio staged Jesus Christ Superstar, a 1973 American musical drama film and Grease, a 1978 American musical romantic comedy movie.
Kabarak University Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academics and Research Prof. John Ocholla called on all stakeholders to work together in conserving and promoting culture through music and other genres of art.
Nakuru is home to leading musicians and comedians gracing local and international stage such as Prof. Hammo, Simor Music, DJ Shiti, Uprising Comedians, Kaka Bweha and Maina Babushee among many others.
By Anne Mwale