The much acclaimed musical Sarafina will premier in Nakuru on October 27th at the Nakuru Players theatre after two postponements in a venture initiated by the County government to promote the region as a movie making and performing arts destination.
County Governor Lee Kinyanjui confirmed that despite the two false starts, all arrangements had been finalized to ensure that the week-long staging of the play goes on without hitches.
“The Nairobi Performing Arts Studio who will stage the play in Nakuru, county administration and other partners have resolved all the logistical challenges to ensure that the show runs. Nakuru is teeming with aspiring artists whose talent can be tapped through such theatre events,” said the governor.
The Act which will now run from October 27th to November 1st is a re-enactment of a popular South African anti-apartheid musical film by the same name that was released in 1989. It highlights the struggle for freedom in Soweto, South Africa, just before anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela was released in 1990.
“County Gender, Culture and Social Services department has an elaborate database 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. We are committed to marketing Nakuru as a movie destination,” said the governor.
The governor noted that African traditional folklore and pre-independence experiences offered a wealthy repository of themes that could be re-enacted into stage plays.
“People from the Coast, Western, Nyanza and Central for example have unique historical experiences, legends and folklore that can find their way into theatres. The same applies to individuals from Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania they all have distinct experiences based on their cultural beliefs and practices,” noted Kinyanjui.
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 have pitched tent in Nakuru to witness the show’s debut.
Sheilla 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 Stuart while revealing that he had also acquired rights to stage the Nairobi Half Life.
Stuart observed the county had a good number of artists who could make it big in the filming industry if they got exposure.
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,” said Tumme.
“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 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 show that is being staged in Nakuru for the first time after Mombasa and Nairobi was expected to attract many with tickets going for Sh1,000 (advance), Sh1,500 (Gate), Group of seven 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 Harmo, Simor Music, DJ Shiti, Uprising Comedians, Kaka Bweha and Maina Babushee among many others.
By Anne Mwale and Faith Kemunto