It finally happened. The company has been holding strong for 6 days but today we had our first man down.
The production journal is coming to you today from the keyboard of Benita de Wit because our resident writer, Stephen Foglia got a little adventurous with local fruits and veg and can’t leave his hotel room.
We set off for Kibera today a lonely 11 people instead of our usual troupe of 12. Props were reallocated and I was down a car travel buddy.
We had a smooth ride in but arrived to find that our audience had been told the wrong time and had been waiting from 9am for a 1pm show. The wonderful people at SHOFCO had been keeping them busy so we did a quick set up and got underway on time.
It was our first primarily adult audience and they seemed receptive to the show. I can’t say first hand, however, because I was on props duty outside. This is one of the challenges of changing venue for each performance. Sometimes an actor’s exit takes them straight outside into the dirt, so one of the lucky production interns gets to sit in the searing heat collecting suit jackets, scarves and blankets and redirecting audience members so they don’t walk through the space mid scene.
What I did get to watch was the daily goings on in Kibera. A long line of people filling their buckets at the SHOFCO Clean Water Kiosk, a group of boys sitting on tires chatting and a stray dog wondering around, looking for food or company. As the performance played out a small crowd gathered by the window, leaning over each other to watch the show. When it was over I retreated into shadier parts to pack up and Kennedy once again lead the post show discussion asking the audience to share what they had learned from the show.
As we left Kibera I felt a small pang of sadness and wondered if I would ever make it back to this exceptional community of welcoming people. That’s the problem with touring, as soon as you start a dialogue and form relationships you’re forced to move on.
In the evening we headed to the beautiful campus of The Kenya High School. After setting up the dining room for an anticipated audience of 700 we then had approximately 1000 girls swarm in to watch the show. Every seat and bench was taken and students stood behind the chairs or climbed up on to tables.
We found many stars in the making with the Whoosh Storytelling exercise which has now become a regular way to start the show. Where some groups have been timid, the girls at Kenya High School jumped in and improvised full scenes as their characters. The blind prophet Tiresias quipped “I may not be able to see anything, but I can see you have made a mistake” which was followed by the sound of 1000 students screaming with laughter.
With that many people watching, it’s impossible not to be injected with energy. In a moment of intense fervor, Phumzile as Tiresias slammed her staff against the ground, the bottom part snapping off from the pressure. It was our first prop breakage and luckily we’d packed spare parts.
The show was one of the longest we’ve had as the actors had to hold several times for laughter or cheers. When we finally reached the end, the girls went wild, cheering their favourite actors and holding their hands in the shape of hearts when they heard that Phumzile and Lunga were from South Africa.
Over a light supper of tea, samosas and mandaazi provided by the lovely staff at Kenya High, one of the teachers, Joy, mentioned that is was the largest turn out for any event they’ve held at the school.
I couldn’t think of a more beautiful way to end our time in Kenya.
-Benita de Wit