Battle royale as directors fight for top honours at colourful drama festival 

Ngwata school from Mavoko stage a colourful play Fuusi Nadh directed by Faith Maeke and produced by Patrick Makau

Ngwata school from Mavoko stage a colourful play Fuusi Nadh directed by Faith Maeke and produced by Patrick Makau during day two of the ongoing Kenya National Drama and Film Festival at Shimo la Tewa High School on April 22, 2024.


Photo credit: Anthony Njagi | Nation Media Group

You can take nearly everything from a decorated military sergeant before he breaks down. But when you fire him from his job, take away his badge, and deflate his ego when his son is on his deathbed battling cancer, he knows it is time to pull out his gun from its holster and fight.  

In the Kiswahili play by Malindi High School, Dharura, the high-ranking soldier faces nearly every Kenyan’s nightmare when he tries to seek cancer treatment for his son.

A man used to the largesse and privilege that comes with his rank in the military is now faced with the daily struggles of an ordinary Kenyan citizen, where he can easily be kicked out of a hospital waiting area for being broke, and there is nothing he can do. 

The tragic events in the well-scripted and directed play by Joseph Akwiri staged at Mombasa’s Shimo La Tewa high school at the ongoing Kenya National Drama and Film Festival start when he rushes his son to the hospital and he is told he needs at least Sh10 million for the cancer treatment for his son. Time is running out, yet he watches on as his son clings to dear life. 

Everything that could go wrong for the soldier went wrong. The National Hospital Insurance Fund turns him away since he is in default. A private health insurer says cancer is not covered by his scheme.

He turns to the local bank, which denies him a loan since he no longer has a payslip. That is when he turns to the warm embrace of shylocks, who also, after reviewing his financial situation, rejects his loan application.

Meanwhile, the bank auctions his family land, the only remaining asset in their name. That is when he takes matters into his own hands, grabs a grenade and breaks into the military barracks ready to go down fighting.

It is at this point that his woes get the attention of high-ranking individuals in the military administration and government, and something is done. One man shows how Kenya can fix the healthcare crisis in the country in under 45 minutes, on stage.

The play aptly captured the pain in Kenyan homes that continue to be bankrupted by hefty medical bills in the wake of a collapsing national healthcare system. It calls on the government to quickly implement the Universal Health Care plan and end the suffering of Kenyans. 

The other major themes on stage included banditry in the North, social media addiction, high-interest rates, embracing technical and vocational education, economic empowerment, rape and child defilement, among others. 

Impressive new entrants

New entrants in this year’s festivals are giving veterans a run for their money with the plays, cultural dances and modern dance categories emerging as some of the most competitive at this year’s festivals.

Some of the highly anticipated plays at this year’s festival include Oliver Minishi’s Nanyuki High School play, The Miser, in a play billed to be his retirement edition after decades of producing award-winning items at his previous station, Kakamega High School. 

Butere Girls, which is being trained by former Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, will stage a play titled God’s Creation, which is expected to compete alongside Riara’s play, The Eyes Have It, scripted by veteran award-winning director Justin Ongwen. 

Other plays expected to compete for the top spot include Laiser Hill Academy, Friends School Kamusinga’s The Walls of Jericho and Michael Kiguta’s Menengai High play.

President William Ruto will be treated to the best items from the festivals in a state concert scheduled for the end of next week. 

Girls from The Kenya High School electrified the audience with their cultural dance dubbed Ohala in a performance that saw the choreographer give the audience a taste of the old and the new by creatively using traditional instruments and spicing them up with the saxophone.

The dance, produced by Ms Virginia Wahome and directed by Lily Mosonick, tells the story of a high school student who attempts to help her father sell fish online using a mobile phone to change their economic fortunes.

 Eastern’s Mwaani Girls staged their play, Generation Z, which dealt with the negative effects of high internet penetration and how to use the digital space positively. The play was produced by Mrs Joan Muchina and directed by Carolyne Mutanya.