“The grounds for divorce is marriage!” shouts Austin (played by Joe Kinyua). These words encapsulate the central theme and intrigues of the play Mutual Misery. Austin is married to Audrey (Mary Mwikali). He utters these words amidst one of their many long-winding arguments.
He wants to leave. She wants him to stay.
Mutual Misery is a classic portrayal of a dysfunctional modern-day marriage. It’s the second production by new kid of the block Back to Basics. It’s directed by the talented Mbeki Mwalimu and produced by Masuti Mwalimu.
The play starkly brings to the fore the realities of marriage with a strong, experienced cast and crew. The strong language used from the onset of the play (expect curse words and chauvinist slurs) may be disconcerting at first (at least it was for me) but as the play goes on, one becomes more convinced that it is necessary to drive the point home.
No topic is taboo for Mutual Misery. Infidelity, sex, parenting, courtship, and suicide are each tackled by the cast with equal zeal and valour.
The play opens with the arrival of Austin, who comes home from work to find his stay-at-home wife in the middle of painting the house. Everything spells trouble when she stiffens her back and does not turn around when he comes into the house.
The props, which are extremely well-thought out, immediately transport the audience to the living room that Audrey is trying to renovate despite her husband’s constant disparaging remarks about her efforts.
However, it’s his cheating and her nagging that form the basis of most of their arguments. Austin’s philosophical outbursts make for a thrilling watch as well.
“Do they know you are married?” asks Audrey at one point, to which Austin replies:
“They can see my finger,” and proceeds to wave his ring finger at her.
Joe Kinyua’s portrayal of Austin is outstanding. He immediately morphs into a perverted, violent, emotionally unstable, cheating philosopher. He allows the audience little, rare glimpses into the gentle, loving husband and father he could potentially be before reverting back to the highly flawed man he is.
Mary Mwikali (Audrey) was a good match for him but if I’m allowed to rank them, then Joe’s performance would be the medal-winning one. Audrey plays the stereotypical ‘good’ wife: bitter, subdued, tired, vindictive yet unwilling to divorce but it’s her dalliance with suicide during one of the scenes that the actress showed her grit and might.
Both play the stereotypical roles of cheating man and poor, woeful wife respectively but it was Joe’s acting that delivered the punches.
As the play inches towards its conclusion, Audrey makes one final, desperate attempt to win back her husband (or marriage) through emotional blackmail but will it work?
Mutual Misery is an extremely provocative play that lets the audience glimpse into the intriguing world of a dysfunctional marriage, and perhaps gives them a chance to reflect on their own relationships.
The show continues on Sunday at Alliance Française. For ticket enquiries, call: 0722 232 059.