I’m seated here in my office –a converted corner in my TV-less living room – drinking freshly blended mango juice, mixed with cinnamon and ginger and thinking loudly about what I’m looking forward to this year. I find that making resolutions at the end of January is usually more effective once the New Year euphoria is over, which makes the set objectives more attainable.
I look forward to Season 2 of Sense 8. Yes, I finally got round to watching it (did I know it was available with movie-vendors?) and I have to say it is easily one of my favorite shows from 2015. There was a bit of an uproar among actors about ‘foreign’ themes and I must admit this view influenced me to put it at the end of my to-watch-list. Shame on me since I went for those auditions and some of my friends had roles in it! Kumbe this ‘foreign’ theme my fellow actors were talking about was purely homophobic sentiments. I will only point out that latest studies confirm that 95% of homophobic people are actually biologically homosexual which suggests that homophobia could be a defense mechanism. But please stay and don’t kasirika in case you are homophobic – you are in the remaining 5% bracket.
The most interesting theme according to me in this series was that of unquestioned social values verses individual lifestyle. It propagates the age-old argument in modern political history: Who is more important in the society … the people or the person? I think that this is what makes the otherwise ordinary plotting of Sense 8 unique. For those who haven’t watched Sense 8 yet, it is a Netflix sci-fi series -produced and directed by the Wachowskis! – Partly shot in Nairobi, about eight strangers from different parts of the world who suddenly become mentally and emotionally linked.
It was interesting to watch our Kenyan cast against the other cast in India, America, South Korea and Germany. Peter King definitely had the best performance and I would not be surprised if he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Award. The kind of depth this dude is able to emit from his body language always amazes me. (Peter King si you teach us this thing bana!) Another Kenyan actor who pulled an interesting stunt was Chichi Seii. Our local casting directors/agents frequently typecast based on the real life personality of the actor. Due to her pristine looks, eloquent English and enthralling demeanor, she has always played upper middle class characters.
In Sense 8 she plays the H.I.V-AIDS infected mother of Capheus who lives in Kibera and grew up in the village. And woii… didn’t the make-up transform her usually mellow face. She delivered the role as intensely as she delivered baby Capheus (sorry about the spoiler). I’m sure fellow actors who haven’t met her in person before watching the series will be unable to tell her real age.
[Enough of Sense 8.]
I am also looking forward to a strengthened Guild. If you are enthusing on how a guild would make actors lives easier and you are even planning the next step, you will be glad to know that the Kenya Actors Guild already exists. The Guild is still in its early stages so structural and implementation challenges are bound to emerge. This does not mean that the welfare is not making progress. If you are on the other side of this line of thought and do not see the need of a guild, well, a guild is simply a welfare organization that protects professionals with the same set of skills. Something better might be discovered in future but at this point, I highly encourage you to register with KAG, at http://www.kenyaactorsguild.com/
More than this, we could promote actors’ forums. This is simply transforming our WhatsApp group-conversations into an oral space. It is high time actors engaged in meaningful discourse on the current issues and future of our craft. The more experienced should mingle with the upcoming and everyone should be willing to share and learn something new. At the end of last year we had a very successful actors’ workshop at the PAWA 254. It was facilited by Gilbert Lukalia, Joseph Wairimu and I. This time we shall have an even more intense event. A discussion forum made up of an elite panel of actors and film/theatre stake holders. The topic will be in question form: ‘(Why) have acting standards gone down?’ . We will then have a one on one interview with a legendary actor who will –for sure – inspire you, then we shall have a two day workshop on character development. Please note that this workshop will actually be about exchanging ideas, experiences and allowing your current or previous work to be criticized. Its intention will not be to educate. Therefore it is more suitable for experienced actors even though new actors are invited to observe and get inspired. All this will happen at the Kenya National Theatre main auditorium from the 22nd to 24th of February, 2016. Space is limited so apply early .Let’s call it, ‘An Actor Develops Studio’.
Lastly I look forward to acquiring a TV set. I have always disliked those things as anti-social tools and culture-stealing media. Yet I still pop into my friends’ houses to enjoy a local TV show so that I can praise or critique its actors on this blog.
For anyone wishing to get me a gift for my birthday on 25th September, I hope I have made your life a lot easier.