The curtain falls on Harry Ebale

Thursday January 7 2016

Harry Ebale (Kaggia) in John Sibi-Okumu's Kaggia. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU

Harry Ebale (Kaggia) in John Sibi-Okumu's Kaggia. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU 

THESPIANS IN KENYA ENDED the year on a dark note. One of the most loved characters in theatre, Harry Ebale, died of a heart attack. The news was received with shock and disbelief – some people had seen him the previous day and said  he looked fine. Others had done rehearsals with him only a few days earlier, and he was fine. Yet others, like my husband, had just spoken to him about a project; Harry had been fine. But then again, that is what heart attacks do to. They take people away without warning.

Harry was a friend to all, a brother to all and a  father figure to all. He always had something good to say about everybody and everything. To him, things were never beyond help. It’s gut-wrenching to lose such a positive soul.

Being a theatre lover, I watched Harry countless times, but perhaps, what I will remember him  most for is his role as Bildad Kaggia in John Sibi-Okumu’s masterpiece, Kaggia. Harry looked nothing like Kaggia in real life, but he played Kaggia so convincingly that Kaggia started looking like Harry. I watched the play twice, and on both occasions Harry got the audience weeping unreservedly. On one of these occasions, the Kaggia family was in the audience, and they cried openly. If John Sibi-Okumu is planning to stage Kaggia again, he will have a hard time finding a fitting replacement.

The Kaggia family were among the mourners who paid their last respects to Harry.

TRIBUTE TO SELF

Like many great theatre actors in Kenya, Harry’s acting life started at the Phoenix Theatre. He made several television appearances (Mwangaza, How to Find a Husband, etc) and starred in several MNet movies. He also flirted with theatre directing at Phoenix. Harry also worked with many young people from Eastlands, where he shared his wealth of experience in action.

Harry was buried in Aboloi, Teso, but the distance did not deter friends and colleagues from travelling to his funeral. 

They say that whatever you do when you are alive, you should remember that you are writing your own tribute. Going by the tributes Harry got, he did his part by writing a beautiful tribute for himself. Harry will live in many people’s hearts for a very long time. Even as I write this, feeling truly sad, I find myself smiling when I remember his personality. Below are some of the tributes paid to Harry:

  •   You were a peace maker and a wholesale distributor of good cheer! May God keep your soul in eternal peace. Rest well my friend – Alison

  •   I’m glad I knew you. I’ll miss you, with your big laugh and your crazy stories. Your wit and ability to put everyone at ease, your drop-everything-and-help nature which I saw over and over again in my darkest hours. I thank God for you. Till we meet again – Ciru Macharia

  •   I am speechless, Harry Ebale, I can’t believe how death is so cruel. Working with you was always a great pleasure. You never complained even when you had to ride that bike for every scene and take. You always said you were fine. My heart is in pain. Will miss you. Broadway in heaven will be honoured to have you. Prepare those killer productions for us there. Your smile and laughter shall forever keep the angels entertained. Rest in entertainment, Oyundi – Nancy Aluoch Reagan.

  •   RIP brother, a pure soul gone way too soon; this industry, and our lives, will not be the same without y our smile and cheer – Andrew Muthure

  •   Rest In Peace. A man who taught me about life and art. Thank you, Harry – Nick Ndeda

  • Indeed, rest in peace, Harry.