Tartuff the play was performed by Falme Productions at the Kenya National Theatre, Nairobi from May 19-21, 2017.
Tartuffe or The Imposter written by French screen writer Molière was first performed in 1664 in France. The play, considered classical theatre, follows Orgon a rich farmer dude who is conned by a religious charlatan called Tartuffe who was but a chokora before he was rescued by the farmer. Orgon’s family see through the wiles of the conman but Orgon and his mother fail to see it until at the very last moment when the fate of their wealth and lives end up in other people’s hands.
The play, one of the most famous theatrical comedies, was performed by Falme productions this weekend under the direction of both Dr Fred Mbogo and Esther Kamba at the Kenyan National Theatre. The show was adapted to Kenyan circumstances in mind and rewritten with subtle changes in the script showing. Apart from the changes in the script, we meet different names for the characters adopted from the original French. Tartuffe became Tartuff, Orgon became Oscar, Valere became Vincent, Cléante became Clint, Marian became Maryanne and Dorene became Doreen.
The play featured the acting talents of Gilbert Squich Musau as Tartuffe, Eric Wanyama as Oscar, Wairimu Mutunga as Maryanne, Caroline Wangu as Evalyne, Miriam Ngare as Dorene, Daniel Otieno as Clint, Fiona Kaitesi as Grandma, James Mengi as Danny, and Victor Opura as Vincent. Some of these have been seen in shows in the Nairobi theatre scene while some were still new to the game.
The play kicks off on a minimalistic set depicting a rural setting featuring a basic chair, table and greenery all over. An incensed grandma storms onto stage with an umbrella as walking stick and preparing to leave the home she is in. She is unhappy that her family members who are not as pious as has been subscribed by religious guru Tartuff. We discover that the family members present are her granddaughter Maryanne and grandson Danny, Evalyne her daughter-in-law, Clint her other son as well as house maid Dorene. She eventually leaves remonstrating with the many people in the home.
We then meet the family patriarch Oscar having just returned from a journey from out of town who asks news of his religious mentor Tartuff ignoring info on his wife who had been unwell. Scary. Eventually we meet the man himself, a smarmy character who with a turban that would best be seen on our akorino brothers.
The show then goes through the paces you would expect with this script with a change or two from the original. Tartuff is a scoundrel who shows a pious face to his patron but a #TeamMafisi face to his patron’s wife who he covets and others. His patron for his trouble goes on to sign off his property to him to spite the family for daring doubt his hero until he sees his lecherous ways with his own eyes. Yes, there is a happy ending and it is exceedingly enjoyable to watch Tartuff being taken down.
The casting in the play was on point. Tartuff the scoundrel preacher man looks like you would expect with his bloodshot crazed look playing very well for the audience. He carries the show on his back and runs with it if you consider that many of the cast members seemed to be out of their depth. Holding her own however is Miriam Ngare as the house maid Doreen who is a valuable cast member to get us through many of the transitions. Her role had me shaking my head as she challenges authority figures in the play in ways that you wouldn’t expect to see in a home; perhaps she was a cousin or someone’s love child is what I figured.
Here are images we captured from performance.