- Peter Tosh is turning out to be one of Nairobi’s most courageous, daring, and prolific playwrights.
- He’s also the founding father of the Liquid Arts Entertainment theatre company where he often directs his own scripts, the latest being Tapeli which premiered on YouTube this past weekend.
Peter Tosh is turning out to be one of Nairobi’s most courageous, daring, and prolific playwrights. He’s also the founding father of the Liquid Arts Entertainment theatre company where he often directs his own scripts, the latest being Tapeli which premiered on YouTube this past weekend.
Coming on the heels of another one of Tosh’s creation, The Closet, which he had the audacity, during the slight loosening of lockdown, to stage live at Ukumbi Mdogo of Kenya National Theatre (KNT), Tapeli was also performed at the theatre. Only this time, the audience was small, made up of just the videographer Stanley Mulindo, his Nano Film House staff, the Liquid’s cast and crew, and me.
“We were all set to stage Tapeli here [at KNT], but then the lockdown cancelled that. But since our fans had already bought tickets, we decided not to let them down. We’re giving all those who buy tickets the link to our pre-recorded show,” Tosh said on the day of the filming.
Tosh’s passion for theatre is exceptional, especially as many thespians have allowed the pandemic to shut down their performance processes altogether. He, like Brian Christopher Orina who also staged The Heart of Oblivion at KNT recently, chose to risk putting on his production in spite of the Covid restrictions. But that was before this so-called ‘Third Wave’ hit the country and lockdown returned. Now he had fans awaiting his new show and his cast all set to perform.
Given the challenges Liquid Theatre faced, Tosh had no choice but to take his show online. It wasn’t easy. There were several technical hitches which ultimately got ironed out. But one thing I had to notice about Tapeli staged as a live performance (which I watched at a safe social distance as it was being filmed) and Tapeli on YouTube was the immense difference between the two. First off, there’s the electricity and excitement of seeing theatre live versus seeing it on film.
Then there’s the fact, as other stage actors who’ve turned into TV celebs have testified, there’s a big difference in the way one works. On stage, you can stretch out and move anywhere on or off stage. But on film one needs to be ever-mindful of the lens and what the camera is seeing. Great stage actors don’t necessarily become film stars overnight. There’s a lot they have to learn.
Some members of the Tapeli cast figured out the differences quickly and made Tosh’s premier performance of his new work a frolic as well as a fascinating expose about corruption.
Ironically, the star of the show was not the super-crook and tendertrepeur Tapeli (Jesse Maundu) or even his nemesis, the gallant public prosecutor Mbeye (Paul Mbeye) or even the Mayor (Lilian Nyawira) although all of them played critical roles in portraying Nairobi’s swampy fields of corruption and the difficult struggle to ‘drain the swamp’.
The star was the street-wise street boy Kym (Dadson Gakenga) who was hired to literally do Tapeli’s dirty work, like take the millions Tapeli had recently stolen and launder through the Mwananchi Bank, or at least try to. Kym is street-savvy to the point of being prepared to out-thieve Tapeli himself as he teams up with dirty cops and Tapeli’s secretary, Ruth.
Tapeli presents his cynical philosophy in the opening moments of the play: take all you can whenever you can, no matter who you hurt in the process. His greed, selfishness, and cunny style of colluding with fellow conmen is despicable.
But Tosh makes clear that Tapeli is not alone. He has cronies and ‘enablers’ everywhere, from the police and politicians to the judges and corporate executives. They all know he’s a crook, but they enable him to consistently get off scott free.
But now, supposedly, things are going to change, a new supposedly incorruptible public prosecutor Mbeye has come to town. Committed to justice, transparency and accountability, Mbeye is out to get Tapeli. But will he succeed? That’s an open question we are left with.
There’s a lot of finger pointing in Tapeli as good versus evil seems to be in a serious contest. The trick will be to figure out how the good guy will finally foil this cunning bad guy.
If you didn’t see the show, hopefully Tosh will share it on a wider platform next time so the real-life tricksters and thieves portrayed in the play can see their lives (and downfalls) enacted on stage.