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Facelift for Kenya National Theatre?Not just yet

Drama and art lovers will have to wait a little longer to savour a modern Kenya National Theatre (KNT).

Designs for the refurbishment of the theatre, which is a haven for artistes and their fans,  are yet to be developed.  It is only after this that the contract will be awarded — meaning the work will only start late January or in February, two months after President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned  rehabilitation of the facility.

The Sh100 million facelift which is being funded by East Africa Breweries Ltd will see the theatre seats, lighting, sound, soundproofing, stage and other aspects overhauled.

According to the director of the Kenya Cultural Centre, Mr Aghan Odero Agan, the fees charged to theatre companies which stage plays there are not enough to support KNT’s overheads and development budget.

“We charge Sh20,000 and Sh12,000 for the smaller theatre. Nowhere will you be charged that little in Nairobi,” he said.

Despite the theatre’s strategic importance, Treasury has starved KNT of funds and this has seen it become rundown with dilapidated seats and  washrooms as well as poor lighting.

For most Nairobi residents, their first, and perhaps only, contact with KNT was during the staging of high school setbook plays.

The 62-year-old hall has a seating capacity of over 500, but has in the recent years relied on its low charges to compete with more modern theatres such as the French Cultural Centre  and the cosy Phoenix Players Theatre.

The renovations are set to be complete in six months, and this will give the theatre a chance to charge higher fees for premium productions.