John Sibi-Okumu’s brand new script Meetings couldn’t be better timed as it opened last night at Phoenix Players.
Directed by Nick Njache, the play has premiered just days before that fateful day, March 4. Sibi-Okumu’s message won’t be overtly political or partisan, but it will have a moral, deeply embedded in the close encounters that transpire between relations and long-lost friends — and enemies — all of whom have histories that the playwright paints vividly through dialogue that will send chills up and down the spines of anyone who lived through those dark days of the Moi era.
Featuring two of Nairobi’s finest actors playing pivotal roles, Phoenix had the good fortune to get Lydia Gitachi to play Gran (short for grandmother) and Samson Psenjen to take the role of her son Augustus or Gus, who’s been out of Kenya for the past 26 years.
In a timely style, Gus is coming back after having fled Kenya for his life. He has lived in exile overseas, like so many real life activists who moved out quickly and sought asylum in countries like Norway, Zimbabwe and the US, which is where Gus had finally landed.
But as he wanted to come home to vote in 2013, his return impels a series of meetings with any number of friends, enemies and former lovers whom he also hasn’t seen in the past quarter century.
Theatre-lovers who have valued Sibi-Okumu’s previous plays, such as Role Play, Like Ripples on a Pond, In Search of the Drum Major and his work most recently produced at Phoenix Players, Minister Karibu, may find Meetings more intricate and intriguing than his previous scripts; but maybe not. It will be for the public to judge.
One thing is certain: Sibi-Okumu lays out many of the personal complications that derived from the 2007-2008 post-election violence and also from the 24 traumatic years under the previous political regime. Serving as a backdrop for more intimate and personal stories, Meetings could well be Sibi’s most ambitious script to date.
Several of the original cast members meant to be in Meetings were called away following the highly successful production of The Jury, which the US Embassy had sponsored. Due to popular demand, the The Jury is touring various schools.
Last week, the play was staged everywhere from Precious Blood Secondary School to USIU and Moi University to the Nakuru Players Theatre.