Plays on controversial political environments and governance, which once ruled theatres, are rare today.
A Country Funeral (Uganda), is one of the latest creations that take the audience on a journey of reflection on leadership, society and generational conflict.
Written by Brenda Nakyejjwe Tendo, and directed by Brenda Ibarah, the play’s live reading debut was recently hosted by Ndere Cultural Centre in Kampala, Uganda, as part of the 2022 Kampala International Theatre Festival (KITF).
Starring Bryan Byamukama, Eronie Bazongere and Keith Victor Muganza, the play introduces us to three characters — Jacob, David and Anna — and revolves around the preparation for the burial of Jacob’s wife Kirabo, the country’s first lady, and wife to Jacob, the President.
Alongside this, outside is an ongoing strike as the youth demand data protection rights, further fuelling the tension.
This is a socio-political play that explores the day-to-day political activities in a post-colonial African country.
It also explores politicians’ lives and their thoughts on society and their subordinates as regards mainly the latter’s rights, and the cost of whether or not to honour them.
It, however, unveils another layer they (politicians) hold, which is shared by the societies they govern either justly or unjustly; they are human and family life, which consists of marriage and other key relationships, is at the core of their lives and does at times test them.
The 32-minute play, which is still a work in progress, is not only a unique story but also a confirmation of the director’s deft hand at bringing out the emotions of the cast and creating humorous scenes.
David is quite a contrarian, and harbours views that are quite divergent from those of the rest of the cast, and is uneasy with both Anna and Jacob.
When he reveals that his daughter is playing a leading role in the strike, his colleagues are left quaking.
Although this is her first-ever role, the director takes us by surprise, tactically unveiling the seemingly hidden dark history and skeletons of each character.
First is Jacob, who murdered his father, the President, hence assuming the seat.
Next is David, Kirabo’s former lover, who even after getting married to Anna, continued cheating. Anna too isn’t any different, as the daughter they have isn’t David’s but Jacob's. What’s more, towards the end, which also claims David’s life, is the darker discovery of how Anna is fully responsible for the First Lady’s death.
The cast is great at expressing their emotions through action, which captivates the audience. Equally moving is the use of satire, which is well experimented with.
The writer uses satire and sarcasm to unveil the often unsettling reality.
The play is set in a corporate environment, where the characters are at work and dressed in suits, but mostly centres around the unearthing of dirt, through the use of themes such as betrayal, death, loss and greed.
The play shows that these human frailties are indeed alive in the families of the elite class.
Following this premiere public reading, the director of the play said they are planning to have its official debut staging at next year’s Kampala International Theatre Festival (KITF), and Uganda’s National Theatre.