Thursday, 9 June 2011

Necessary Hating

"Those who can do - those who can not criticize"
I've done movie reviews and managed to put a book review now to try my hand at a theatre review. Uh oh I think I'm becoming one of those described above.

I've attended many a play done by Heartstrings Ensemble at the Alliance Francaise which are usually hilarious and well worth my money. They used to do a lot of adaptations of British productions but nowadays they have local works usually written by Daniel "Churchill" Ndambuki. Yesterday was my first and here are some of my honest observations...

The production was titled "Men are from Kenya women are from Pluto" so I was looking forward to a riveting tale about the battle of the sexes in Kenya. The best part was the humorous commentary by Larry Asego in between the scenes about the difference between men and women. The jokes delivered by the cast were great too, one liners that kept the audience in stitches. That's the good stuff however...

For all the jokes and humour thrown into the production there was a very important ingredient missing- the story wasn't flowing. It turned out to be a mish mash of one liners and skits strewn together for comic effect but no overarching storyline. This may be harsh but that's my honest opinion. Humour isn't an end in itself but a tool used to enhance a story. In the end I asked myself what exactly I watched and couldn't explain- like the title I was somewhere in Pluto. Sadly this kind of approach is way too common in our dramatic productions and it is worrying. I may never have written a play myself but I can appreciate a good one and yesterday I left disappointed and may even say annoyed. Sometimes honest criticism is needed to at least up the game! Churchill is a good comedian no doubt but his show is at times trite, comedy is a tough business so you have to keep re inventing yourself. Honestly on his show the person I see putting a lot of work into his act is Eric Omondi and it comes out on stage.

If we are to get our local arts industry at par with giants in the continent such as Nigeria who've flooded our screen we have to up our game in story telling. They're able to churn out hundreds of pictures typically  4 hours long in 2 parts which are able to engage people with their story telling. Same can be said about the Mexican soaps which have flooded our screens. We are being captivated by other peoples stories yet I believe there are great stories just waiting to be told here in Kenya. Let me give an example. Rhythm City is a South African 'Soapie' which has been running for about 3 years or so and can be seen at 1930 Kenyan time weekdays. For those few years they've been able for 5 days a week to keep a running story with humour, tragedy, contoversy suspense and the rest as well as character development. I long for the day when we can pull this off and I know we can. Through interactions in social media I know they are great 'creatives' in this country, poets, writers, screenwriters, directors etc just waiting to be discovered. When I see the works of a wordsmith as Bikozulu who recently called for writers I know it can be done. Others like Wamathai are creating a platform for poets and writers to put their work out. In this day in age traditional channels are not the only way to go e.g Justin Bieber was brought to us through youtube. Then again that's not the best example...

When I began writing this post what I had in mind was a raging polemic against a work that fell way short of my expectations but I find it more constructive to give a rallying call to all those with a dream out there to get it going. The tools are there with Wordpress and Blogger you can easily let your words, pictures, videos, music out. That brings me to my next point that of quality. One of the most memorable movie quotes comes from field of dreams 'If you build it they will come'. I apply it in the sense that if you create good quality creative works the recognition will come and in due course the $$$ . In Kiswahili 'Chema chajiuza kibaya chajitembeza' literally translated the good sells itself , the bad just fronts itself. Everybody loves a good story, a good laugh, good music or even a good photograph and people will detect the good stuff, but you actually have to put it out there. Sometimes I get complimented about good writing thinking, I look around and see greater ones, all I've done is simply put pen to paper. Another example is in order

I'm sure many of you have seen the photography work of @truthslinger on his blog and website. I've known him for a while and have seen how he has harnessed the power of social media to develop his passion and  bring his work out and in due time the quality was seen by all and he got the recognition he deserved. Looking through the blog and website you can see the craftsmanship and attention to detail in the design and also the execution of the shots. Now that's the way to do it, we all believe in our local artists but local is no reason to let the quality go down. So I was sad when a one time higher education minister suggested the govt cut down on funding liberal arts.

In conclusion I strongly believe we've got great artists out there and when you argue you lack a platform look at the story above. I can be done, yes we can! I was really annoyed by what I saw last night and saw it fit to make some noise and ruffle a few feathers if at least to awake some sleeping giant somewhere. Please let us make friends with excellence and make mediocrity our enemy Tuamke! Forward ever backward never...


  1. actually have to put it out there... So true. After way too many indecisions, I rolled out a blog and 10,000 views later, am not looking back.

  2. Good stuff Gitts tell it like it is

  3. Preach on Hit Man!

  4. Thanks collo and joejoachim

  5. hey,i agree with u,the title was off!n there was no storyline i guess coz that was a sketch comedy and not a play...

  6. :-) The first time i heard the title i didn't get it (i still don't); i kept on asking, isn't pluto supposed to be non-existent now?

    I don't think you're hating. There is lots of talent out there...but how many creative bosses with the power to turn raw talent into something awesome,dare take a chance on the unknown? The different?