Too Early For Birds a show based on blogger Owaahh stories was the featured play at the main auditorium of the Kenya National Theatre on July 29-30, 2017.
Owaahh is a blog that showed up on the Kenyan blogosphere a few years ago specialising in stories from the East African nation and further afield. Run by Nairobi resident Morris Kiruga, it has become legendary as it told tales that would have otherwise vanished under the cracks of the fast paced click hungry world that we live in. It specialised in running remarkable stories that we know about but need a new light shed on them or that we had never heard. For his efforts, Kiruga’s blog won the Best Topical Blog at the recent Bloggers Association of Kenya awards.
The blog was given a new lease of life recently when a show based on stories it had written was shown at the Kenya National Theatre in May 17, 2017. The one off show curated by Ngartia and Abu Sense called Too Early For Birds a play on the original name of Owaahh blog, Too Late for Worms. The show sold out leaving many who were unable to see it unhappy. The show makers would listen to their rabid fans and do another running of the show at the same theatre on July 29-30, 2017.
July 29. 6:30pm. At the entrance to the Kenya National Theatre, you encounter a long line which you join and slowly make your way to the front. In the line are many young people speaking excitedly mainly in an English you will find in the middle classes of the Nairobi scene. This English in case you are wondering is a mishmash of posh British/American gotten from US media with Kiswahili, Kikuyu, Luo, Kao, and Kale terms thrown in for spice. Sample English: My guy si this nini is gonna happen like a nonsense yawa?! That’s the type of English that we all hope will one day make it to Microsoft Word as Kenyan English. Ama namna gani my fren’?
This blogger eventually made to the front of the line where there were two stations for ticketing, one for Mpesa and another for Mookh. Mpesa is familiar to everyone who follows anything to do with Kenya as it is our contribution to the world as the mobile money concept which has gotten the most amount of media coverage. That was the line I made my way to. The other one, Mookh, is a new one to some people. It is this new service that allows you sell products in a whole revolutionary way. I shall be doing a fuller blog about this service that has revolutionised the life of an artist selling tickets, albums, books and more in a future post. Till then you will have to make do with going to the site yourself here.
Eventually I would go into the theatre and the show would begin. It started with introductions from who quickly followed by a young girl in a very pretty dress doing an opening poem. If you were expecting a poem in the mould of kids who do sweet poems at public events that make you laugh and go, “awwww” you were in for surprise. This was a ridiculous hilarious or hilariously ridiculous presentation that would give notice to you the show watcher this was not your typical offering. Check out a bit of what she was saying below.
The show then started in full swing. It wasn’t a play with a plot like we are used to with a beginning, middle and an end. Here players, as opposed to actors, would narrate stories from memory about different parts of our country’s history with other players enacting them in the background where needed. This form of theatre has been made famous in Nairobi by Heartstrings Kenya whose formula is using a narrator who would give stories giving a satirical look at our society. Here the stories being given were not humour or sadness but a look at Kenyans and how they have lived using nonfiction as portrayed by Owaahh. The thread running through the show was that Kenyans were people who had full lives that were worthy of someone doing stories of legend because of their actions. Stories like how they stood up against oppression like when the Bukusu battled against the British when they tried to take over their lands. Or how Reverend Timothy Njoya and Prof Wangari Maathai battled the tyrannical President Daniel Arap Moi who was the worst thing to happen to Kenya apart from the British invaders. Or Safaricom’s “Please Call Me Thank You.” Then there was stories of life in colonial times and how Kenya was influenced by men like Macmillan, President Teddy Roosevelt and Tom Mboya (he of Suba Culture fame).
The show kept the audience, which was a full house, glue to the stage as they used popular culture to give it context with references to shows like Game of Thrones (Nairobi’s new religion), CSI Miami and I could be wrong but I swear I heard a Trevor Noahism in there somewhere. There was also a thread from these young people that the country wasn’t being run as it should be which the audience lapped up.
At the end of the show the players were given standing ovation for a job well done. Deservedly. Directed by Yvonne Mwawuganga, it featured Ngartia, Abu Sense, Anne Moraa, Laura Ekumbo (who we last saw performing during the Room of Lost Names), Brian Njagi, Miriam Kadzitu, William Mwangi, Eddie Kagure, and Tony Muchui as cast.
The best of the actors were without a doubt the geniuses behind the show Abu Sense and Ngartia. Ngartia was at once Fred Hampton (Black Panthers) and at another point a Bukusu warrior dressed ready for battle before dressing in a T-shirt with “Jah Rastafari” at the front. The outstanding actor in this show had to be Abu Sense. Abu was the chameleon portraying a posh English colonialist, lawyer Kiraitu Murugi complete with mobile lips, and “so fresh and so clean” Tom Mboya with equal vim. This one actor was for me the highlight of the Too Early For Birds experience.
Should they have another running of this show? Yes please. I’ll want to take my kid to show him that Kenyans are a whole society and not just what is portrayed in the TV or on the Interwebs.
Kudos team Too Early For Birds. Here are more images and video from the show.