Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Award-winning Kenyan play opens Africa Tour in Nairobi

The award-winning Kenyan play 'A Man Like You', which was nominated for
7 awards at last year's Sanaa Theatre Awards, winning Best Actor and
Best Tragedy, is now to tour Africa, following its Nairobi premieres
last year, and three week July run off Broadway in New York.

'A Man Like You' will be performed at the Braeburn Theatre on 28th and
29th April, and will then go to the Harare International Festival of
Arts from 2nd to 11th of May, closing in Cape Town between 14th and 20th
of May.

The tour, which opens in Nairobi then moves to Zimbabwe and South
Africa, taking Kenyan theatre to some of the highest profile arts events
in southern Africa.

The play will be directed by writer Silvia Cassini whose tale of two
idealistic headstrong men; Patrick North, British diplomat and hostage,
and his Somali kidnapper Abdi, has them defending their world-views in
an intense exposé of extremism, politics and religion.

The windowless concrete room in Somalia where North is imprisoned is the
setting for the poignant and thought-provoking conversations he has with
his captor Abdi, which raises questions about the nature of
radicalisation, the flaws of differing cultures, and the similarities
between them, as people.

The cell scene is intercut with a scene in North's home in Nairobi,
where his wife Elizabeth fights for her husband’s freedom whilst she
deals with his absence, and the reality that he may never return.

New York critic Thomas Scully wrote of the play: "The whole affair is
gritty, honest and un-sensational in the best possible way. This play is
not torture-porn, a plastic manufactured white-guilt play; so often
these are the traps with these works, to make a thing brutal and violent
with no regard for reality.

‘A Man Like You’ avoids these pitfalls.
Cassini’s writing instead speaks extensively to cultural
misunderstanding, and the parallels of entrapment between privileged and
unprivileged cultures. Neither Abdi, nor North, is outright villainized
or deified, but are instead presented as individuals; people who under
the circumstances presented to them became the creatures they are.

Their interactions and understandings within misunderstandings, and vice
versa, have to be seen to be fully understood. Suffice to say, the play
speaks to honest, common humanity, without painting over either side’s

For this third production of 'A Man Like You', Cassini's cast will again
include theatre stalwarts Maina Olwenya as Abdi, and Davina Leonard as
Elizabeth, both prominent actors on the Kenyan stage, as well as Kevin
Amwoma, who will reprise his role as the sinister Hassan. There is a key
change in the lead, however, with Cassini having, for this latest run,
cast internationally renowned Zimbabwean actor Kevin Hanssen as Patrick

The staging of the play for its new tour will, however, be completely
different from the original, giving it a new look and a totally fresh
feel. "Each new production of this play should be a clean experience,
not just for the audience but for everyone involved. I have no interest
in doing the same thing twice; change is what keeps us relevant and
growing," said Silvia Cassini.

The play speaks to issues that are now fueling the world’s most
prominent debates, across cultural stereotypes and national identity,
and through being set in Somalia, making Cassini's message of increasing
significance, and the timing of the play’s continental tour extremely