Fanaka Arts Theatre company has been around for some time now. They cut their teeth at the Kenya National Theater, like any other theatre production company, staging plays for the Secondary Schools curriculum set books. However, they soon tried their hand at Gikuyu plays that explored themes such as infidelity, relationships, love, family and sex targeted at more mature audiences.
Staging of Gikuyu plays is nothing new. Ngaahika Ndeeda( I will marry when I want)- a play that was written by Kenyan famous writer, Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong’o together with the late Ngugi wa Miiri was staged at Kamirithu in Limuru in 1977. Although Ngaahika Ndeenda was a commercial success, it was shut down by the authoritarian Kenyan regime six weeks after its opening. Ngugi was subsequently imprisoned for over a year.
There is a rise in Gikuyu comedy and generally comedies in other Kenyan local languages, staged not just by Fanaka, but by other theatre production companies such as Heartstrings Entertainment, Arena Media and others.
Fanaka has for over a year successfully staged a new Gikuyu comedy every month with some like ‘Kaana Funny’ being enjoying a repeat performance due to its demand.
Early last month, The Fanaka group decided to take it a notch higher by introducing the first ever Gikuyu Stand up Comedy night.
Thingira na Mike Rua was the first in a series of Thingira Comedies featuring some of the best Gikuyu comedians who have prominently featured in various stage plays as actors, Radio personalities as well as famous Gikuyu musicians. Personalities such as Njoroge wa Papa Shirandura, Njomo wa Nyathira, Mundu Particular were among the acts in the inaugural night with each staging a 20 minute standup act interlaced with musical breaks from both traditional one man Guitar singers. The closing act, Mike Rua got the crowd, of more than 500 that was sprawled throughout the Alliance Francaise gardens, on their feet dancing to his vulgar laced renditions of famous hits.
The first Thingira was well thought out with the venue set up done in a Gikuyu homestead style complete with an actual hut that welcomed revellers to the event and a welcoming glass of Muratina in wait to complete the experience. The Alliance Jardin grounds could not contain the crowd that spilt over to the exhibition space with many settling for the mounted TV screens for a glimpse of the comedians.
The adult only event had all one would expect; the dark humour was on so many levels with some comedians choosing to play mind games in their acts. The one comedian that stood out for me was the only lady of the night whom many didn’t think would hack it. She turned out to be the highlight of the evening with her description of the many different types of itches. My friend Wanjiku and I were on the floor in stitches.
They are back this December with Joseph Kamaru the king of Gikuyu music together with Pastor J.J (he is on another level of crazy preaching), Njomo Nyathira, Mundu Particular and Gathomba. The MCs will be Jokonia & Githingithia.
If the language is not a barrier for you, go to to the Alliance Francaise on the 6th for an evening of cultural entertainment. Our Chris Rock might not come as an English standup comedian, Fanaka are out to prove that.