Mombasa art scene roars back to life

Little Theatre Club

Athman Shughuli, Bernice Muriuki and Omar Khalfan on stage in the play "Unkindness of Spectre" at the Little Theatre Club in Mombasa.

Photo credit: Jurgen Nambeka | Nation Media Group

The year 2023 promises to be a good one for the performing arts in Mombasa County with the return of plays at the Little Theatre Club, which has been dormant since Covid-19 struck.

Two weeks ago, a live stage performance of the “Unkindness of Spectre” play was showcased, proving all was not lost for the industry that had lost its shine.

The theatre in the Mbaraki area of the tourist city’s Central Business District (CBD) was built in 1952 as an entertainment joint for British soldiers.

Its old design encompasses the then beauty, while providing an arena for thespians, dancers, and musicians to express their love for the arts. Despite not being an A-list production, the audience could not help but see beyond the technological and artistic mishaps, just to enjoy the story.

The director, Mbashir Shambi, who also doubled up as the technical hands on both lighting, sound, and the stage design, said that the audience showed faith in them, and it meant that soon the artistic area would blossom.

“Prior to Covid-19 and the elections, we had gotten to a schedule that would allow us to stage plays often. The turnout today has proven to us that Mombasa still has individuals who love theatre. With enough investment, it can be a worthwhile venture for the young artistes,” said Shambi.

Set beautifully in a kingdom, the “Unkindness of Spectre”, written by playwright Musa Atito, tells the story of a middle-aged man, Shaheed, who, after rescuing the kingdom from his father's tyranny, promises to be a better ruler.

Little does he know that power corrupts and he battles with himself on whether to leave it to his only son, Sahel, and let him bear the loneliness and pain of being a ruler - one who shoulders the kingdom's burdens.

The cast of the play, which included Athman Shughuli, Yasin Juneja, Bernice Muriuki, Omar Khalfan, and William Mwachiro, gave a performance that transported the audience to the kingdom to have a taste of the unfolding.

Little Theatre Club

Cast of the “Unkindness of Spectre” perform at the Little Theatre Club Mombasa.

Photo credit: Jurgen Nambeka | Nation Media Group

Mr Juneja, who plays Shaheed, argued that the culture of going to the theatre needs to be rekindled. It requires investors joining forces to fund the arts, allowing artistes to be motivated in their work.

“Being one of the leaders of the team, it’s a beautiful occasion. The young thespians who have given their sweat and blood on that stage need support. 

“By having people come to watch the plays, it gives them hope. They come here because some do not have jobs, and this is what they use to fend for themselves,” said Juneja.

Ms Muriuki, who delivered a splendid performance that evening, the chance to wow the audience came by luck.

“I had a passion for acting before. The problem was that I did not know where to start. The Little Theatre Club and Habash Productions believed in me. I have so much hope in what the theatre space has to offer,” said Ms Muriuki, who starred in the play as Adea.

On the other hand, Mr Mwachiro and Mr Shughuli, who had done other plays before, believed that it was a step in the right direction.

The cast and crew of the play added that they are looking forward to the World Theatre Week, towards the end of March, which will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to visit and share in the joy of the produced works of art.

“We are very eager for the World Theatre Week. We know it will provide us a chance to meet with various stakeholders to talk about our needs. We have invited the Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture, and Youth Affairs, Ababu Namwamba, and the county government to come and support us,” said Mr Shambi.

World Theatre Day is observed annually on March 27.

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