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Jobless scientist who found a better home in theatre arts

Saturday February 29 2020

Wreiner Mandu

A scene from the play ‘Cherishables’, written by the playwright Wreiner Mandu. PHOTO | POOL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

HELLEN SHIKANDA
By HELLEN SHIKANDA
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With a twang that sounds like a blend of American and British English, playwright Wreiner Mandu only speaks after the plays he has written have had their curtains closed. And, when he opens his mouth in a theatre, he thanks the audience, then holds hands with his cast and bows.

After this, he disappears from stage and the next time you see him, he will have written another play and will appear on stage in the same fashion, only when he is needed.

Anyone who has been to his show more than once would wonder, is this how all playwrights behave?

MANY HATS

Mr Mandu, of Igiza Arts Production, wears many hats. When he is not busy writing a play, he is an actor. Other times, he is a director, and when he is free from the busy life, he mentors his acolytes.

The art, which he enjoys doing, is worlds apart from what he studied at university — land resource planning and management, a course that has only earned him an internship at a survey company.

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“Arts own my heart, science was due to society’s duress,” he says.

He, like many Kenyan youth, was not lucky to get a job immediately after university in 2017. It is then that he thought of reviving a passion that he first took a stab at when he was just 10, some 15 years ago.

Asking him what he now thinks of the first play he wrote, he utters four words: “It was pure mud.”

10 PLAYS

So far, he has written 10 plays, all of which have been staged at different theatres in Nakuru and Nairobi. His muse on what he writes are past experiences, contemporary happenings and utopia.

Anyone who watches his plays will always relate with a character in his script, something he does so effortlessly just by writing scripts that resonate with his audience, who, in most cases, are the youth.

The signature of his plays is the consistency of the style he uses to write his titles — they always rhyme with a bit of juxtaposition.

Some of the titles of the plays he has written are Faced Defaced, Perishables Cherishables, Bravado Aficionado, to name just but a few.

This is the reason his audience is always hooked to his plays. He writes such titles as a strategy, and because he simply loves wordplay.

“I am a wordsmith. If asked to play with anything, I would choose words anytime.”

CASTING

For the plays he writes, he also does the casting and directing. Casting makes him get what he wants so that the idea he visualised when writing is brought to life on stage. He does not go for talent alone.

“I look out for discipline and determination. Discipline is indispensable in this field, any field,” he says.

As a director of his scripts, he makes sure nothing is left out, especially the crucial parts of the message that he wants the audience to take in.

“Directing your own piece has to be the most gratifying thing ever. The sense of ownership and seeing what you had envisaged begin to crawl and finally stand firm is imposingly joyful.”

He did not wake up a writer, but it was a gradual process that he kept learning over time.

“I was inspired by the realisation that I love words, I deem words infallible,” he says.

LARGE NUMBERS

The best feedback he gets from his audience is having them come for a repeat show in large numbers. That, he says, is a blessing.

If he was to choose to fit in someone’s shoe, then, the one person that he would prefer is the late Barnabas Kasigwa, because of Kasigwa’s deft.

“He was an aficionado playwright and director. He mentored me like his own son. I wish he were still alive,” he says.

Mr Mandu says choosing his favourite script is a conundrum, but, if it was shoved down his throat, Perishables Cherishables still dazzles him.

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