Too Early for Birds Review: A Creative and Bold Take on Kenya’s History
Owaahh’s stories have been riveting the online Kenyan space for a few years now and with stories such as ‘The Sack of Imperial Bank’, ‘The Masai and the Duruma meteorite’ and ‘The Brain Eating Bear that Haunted the Nandi’. Owaahh has introduced us to interesting and new perspectives on Kenyan history as well as in-depth analysis of current events. When the talented duo of Ngartia and Abu Sense announced that they would be adopting Owaahh’s stories for the stage in a Too Early for Birds show, I was intrigued. I have long been a fan of both Ngartia and Abu Sense and thought the collaboration with Owaahh was a match made in heaven. The storytelling session was directed by Yvonne Mwawuganga and featured Ngartia, Abu Sense, Anne Moraa, Laura Ekumbo, Brian Njagi, Miriam Kadzitu, William Mwangi, Eddie Kagure, and Tony Muchui as cast.
It was a full house at the Kenya National Theatre and the excitement from the audience filled the room. The stage had a simple setup: some pallets and ropes that were shaped like nooses hanging from the ceiling. Laura Ekumbo got the audience warmed up with a tongue bending memory game which reminded me how old I am as I could barely remember much but was good fun.
Ngartia and Abu Sense were first up on stage with a comical retelling of a story from Paul Ngei’s childhood that began his long career as a man who spoke with his fists. Ngartia and Abus Sense’s comic timing was impeccable and I appreciated the sprinkling of Kamba words into the story. The full storytelling session ended up being a retelling of Paul Ngei’s life story punctuated by other stories from Owaahh’s blog, mostly from the colonial era.
I am an avid reader of Owaahh’s blog so I was familiar with most of the stories, but it was still a treat to see them come alive on the stage. The cast didn’t have much to work with by way of props but weaved a good tale with what they had. Otienyo, the brave Abagusii warrior, stands up to the white colonialist Northcote. Muthoni Nyanjiru leads a courageous demand for the release of Harry Thuku. Paul Ngei saves Jomo Kenyatta’s life and never lets him forget it. The Nyayo House tortures remind us of why we must not forget.
The performances were wonderful and managed to be both moving and humorous. The team should consider having mics (we missed some bits as some of the cast were not very audible), as well as a more elaborate set (which is probably a funding issue more than anything else and I hope they are able to attract some). Also, in as much as it is an initiative by Owaahh, Ngartia and Abu Sense, it would be great to hear more women’s voices in the narration. Laura Ekumbo and Anne Moraa had some great parts (Anne was powerful as Muthoni Nyanyiru) but I would have especially liked to hear Muthoni Nyanjiru’s story narrated by Laura. It would have been even more powerful in a woman’s voice.
The May show was the first of many as Too Early for Birds is slated to return in July, with another show also confirmed for September. I already know I will be going and I am excited to see more stories brought to life by this talented team. Kenya is a country that is hungry because it has been starved of its stories. We need to know who we are, where we’ve been and reconcile that with where we need to go. Storytellers have been the carriers of a people’s spirits through the stories in their mouths and it is a tradition that continues through Too Early for Birds.http://www.mwendengao.com/2017/05/20/too-early-for-birds-review-a-creative-and-bold-take-on-kenyas-history/ArtEventsPoetryReviewsTheatreAbu Sense,Ngartia,Owaahh,Too Early For Birds