It’s tempting to say you won’t enjoy it.Voices of the Bible: Kings and Leaders‘ almost as much if you don’t have a light knowledge of the Bible, especially the Old Testament.
If you haven’t read about the trials and tribulations of men like Moses and Jeremiah, or even John who was banished to the island of Patmos, then you won’t understand how brilliant Gillette Elvgren’s screenplay is.
But if you love watching superb performances by some of Kenya’s finest actors who live on our stage and screen today, then don’t miss it.kings and leaders“Because those are the main roles they play.
In fact, screenwriter Gillette focuses specifically on the leading men in numerous biblical stories. It amplifies their innermost feelings as they reflect on their lives and the reasons they are in the Bible in the first place.
In the case of Moses, it is about delivering God’s chosen children from bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land, which he is not meant to reach himself.
In the case of the prophet Jeremiah, they lament the neglect of their God by the children of Israel and the tragic times they have faced because they have forgotten the blessings they have received from Yahweh, their name for God.
And John is the one who wrote those frightening passages of Revelation the meaning of which scholars have struggled for centuries to understand, particularly what he ultimately sees in “a new heaven and a new earth.”
But even if you have no idea what happened to guys like Aaron (Sam Psenjen) or Eli (Steve Katingima) or even Uriah (William Mwangi) who dies so masterfully on stage declaring his loyalty to King David who is just (was having him killed to conveniently capture his wife), they all gave mesmerizing performances.
And almost everyone (even heretics and atheists) will have heard of Adam (Elsaphan Njora), Moses (Justus Mirichii) and Paul (Mugambi Nthiga), all of whom were equally compelling in their roles.
The lighting at the Braeburn Garden Estate is not the best for this type of production. But sonically, the eight actors brought together in this production by Chemi Chemi Players harmonized melodically, acapella-style, with everything from popular Swahili anthems to a black American gospel song, to the show’s climax with a haunting rendition of Kenya’s national anthem .
As a matter of fact, ‘kings and leaders‘ is the kind of show that sticks in your head long after you’ve watched it. It lets you see how deeply the screenwriter delved into the innermost thoughts of these key characters. Of course, it can be considered fiction since she didn’t know any of her characters personally.
But take a guy like Adam (Elsaphan Njora), who is mostly remembered as the guy responsible for the “original sin” of disobedience to God. Elsaphan explores the loneliness the “first” mortal must have felt, having no one to talk to but Eve.
The same thoughtful, soul-searching point of view is evident in almost all of the characters. This includes everyone from Pharaoh (Kevin K1 Maina), who lost his first son, to Eli (Steve Katingima), the priest who also died on stage after confessing his “sin” of jealousy over it , that young Samuel heard the Word of God directly, not him.
Still, the play has some surprisingly funny scenes, such as the reenactment of a light-hearted, biblically-based Sunday school performance in which the cast plays schoolboys who over-dramatize their roles.
It started with Purah (Mugambi Nthiga) taking us into his enchanting childhood memory of his Sunday school reenactment of the story of Gideon (William Mwangi) and the Angel (Kevin Maina) from the Book of Judges.
The other comedic moment was captured by Sam Psenjen, who played Matthew, the tax collector whom Jesus chose to follow him. Previously viewed only as a corrupt helmsman, even by Jesus’ own disciples, who were shocked at their Master’s selection, Matthew was philosophical in his light-hearted assessment of how many kinds of people deceive themselves and even God.
‘kings and leaders‘ Very different from Chemi Chemi’s previous production of the all-girls show,”Spread your robe over me‘ which projected the lives and feelings of female figures in the Bible. The latter was a slightly more accessible script. But the quality of the cast and the direction of Julisa Rowe are the same.
The amazing thing about this production, which is running again this weekend (so don’t miss it), is that many of the cast have moved on to filmmaking. So we’re excited to see her back on stage.