After more than 20 years, Kenya’s favorite musical, Sarafina the play, is back at the Kenya National Theatre and during its first week of showing, it did not disappoint.
The new play that has brought in some familiar faces and some new ones had a soldout crowd on Saturday glued to the stage as they laughed and shed tears all at the same time.
This is the second time the play is gracing the Kenyan theatre stage since 2003.
Based on a combination of both the original play and movie by the same title, Sarafina first captivated the world in 1992 with the introduction of a young South African actress, Leleti Khumalo.
Leleti plays the lead role as a high school student who survives arrest and torture to lead her classmates in a musical celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela.
In the play, Brenda Wairimu plays the role of Sarafina. The musical also has other big names like Hellen Mtawali, Gilad, Patrick Oketch and Mkamzee Mwatela as Mary Masembuko.
Ms Mtawali has had the audience falling off their seats with laughter as she mixes Xhosa and Zulu with Swahili and although she has two small roles as mistress she has still stood out.
Ms Mtawali who played Sarafina in 2003 was cast as a history teacher who refuses to teach the whitewashed version of history, whether it puts black people or white people in bad light. Asked why she came back again, she said, “The idea was to bring back numbers to the theater.”
Her words were also echoed by the director at the Kenya National Theatre (KNT) Stuart Nash who said it is time to bring back people to the theater with some of the old shows that people loved.
“We are trying to embrace the theatre and bring in some audiences from the 80s to 90s, hence the reason I wanted to do something which was popular in Kenya,” said Nash.
Award-winning Kenyan musician, Gilad Millo, was also happy to be back on stage after years away. At 19 he played Oliver Twist in a high school play, at 46 now the former diplomat said he was happy to play the two roles that came his way, Lieutenant Bloem and the Interrogator.
“I got a call from Nash and I only realised how difficult it was after he pitched to me. Three rehearsals a week and I was ready, though I had only just few lines to memorise,” he said.
Sarafin is no doubt one theatrical piece that remains and will forever be a constant reminder of the pain, the misery and most importantly the hope that young people went through in South Africa and are enjoying today.
Tickets for the show are retailing for Sh1,200 (advance) and Sh1,500 (at the gate). The play premiered on July 12 and it be running all weekend from July 20 to 22.