Coastweek-- An authoritative portrayal of
“Betrayal in the City” opened last Friday at the Little Theatre
Club (LTC), writes GILLIE OWINO
and PETER ODOTE.
The play by Kenyan playwright Francis
Imbuga addresses the troublesome effects of freedom and
independence in post-colonial African nations.
These nations have been repressed for
so long that their inhabitants are left to wonder if they have
any say in their country’s future.
The repression often involves
politics, with the real monsters being those who hold power at
the highest levels.
The second performance on Saturday
attracted a full house that included students from the Aga Khan
They were so thrilled they rewarded
the cast with a standing ovation.
It was a powerful portrayal of a
powerful script and more people (students especially) must try
to watch the play before it stops its run at the end of March.
It is next showing on 3rd and 4th March.
Set in a fictional country, known as
Kafira, characters in the play not only have generic names, such
as Boss (Samantha Nabulenyi), Tumbo (Aries Kamau) and Mosese (Bonveture
Otieno), but many have generic traits, allowing them to be
anyone, from any country.
The generic characters and setting not
only allow Imbuga to critique corrupt politicians and systems of
government in Africa, they also transcend Africa due to their
universal nature, thus pointing an accusatory finger at corrupt
politicians and systems of government around the world.
The play begins with two characters,
Nina (Patience Mathenge) and Doga (Gillie Owino), who are in
Their child has been killed in an
organized demonstration against dictatorship and corruption.
From the plight of Nina and Doga, the
audience is then introduced to other characters that must face
their bleak realities in a corrupt system of government,
including Jusper (Matayo Randu), Jere (Anthony Ndulenyi) and
Another character is Mulili (Hillary
Namanje), who is an illiterate soldier that has somehow become a
high-ranking official now.
Along with other cronies of the
government, Mulili causes pain and sorrow for the people of
Another plotline to the play deals
with the suppression of artistic and intellectual freedom in
repressive regimes, something that author knew firsthand.
In the play, this suppression is seen
firsthand in the story of Mosese, a lecturer who is tasked with
burying one of his students.
He is told that no one can cry during
the burial, and more importantly, that no one can make a speech.
Mosese chooses to ignore this demand,
however, and is jailed for his disobedience.
Another character, Jusper, is
attempting to write a play, but is told specifically what to say
and how to say it.
More than anything, Imbuga’s play
shows how Kafira is a country that devours its own people.
No one really makes it out alive.
Though materialism and patronage
systems, such as nepotism, are rampant, even corrupt officials
like Mulili are prone to infighting and desperate attempts to
climb higher up the political ladder.
Meanwhile, characters like Nina and
Doga suffer and lose loved ones.
“Betrayal in the City” is power-ful in
its reach and subject matter, as well as its bleak portrayal of
social and political diseases that rot from the top down.
Indeed, by showing how complex the
problem of corrupt government is, Imbuga’s play rightly
positions itself as a strong voice in the continuous struggle
for freedom, in Africa and other suffering countries.
On Friday March 24th and
Saturday 25th the Club will be present “Mstahiki Meya”
at 7pm on both days. Students pay 300/-, club members 500/- and
Both “Betrayal in the City” and
“Mtahiki Meya” are school text books produced for LTC by Gillie
Owino and directed by Hillary Namanje.