Lovers of stage plays were this past weekend treated to a memorable performance at The Little Theatre in Dar es Salaam in what was billed to be a performance of a lifetime.
Aptly named ‘Baba’s House’, the two-day show saw seasoned and fresh talents take to stage to portray some interesting characters in a script that would have Hollywood directors drooling for rights to do a screen adaptation.
Even though theatre plays are struggling to gain prominence in Tanzania, the attention that Baba’s House commanded leading to its climax on stage was nothing short of encouraging.
Buoyed by social media posts and reposts, the platform was set for the audience to be dazzled.
Baba’s House script as written by Angela Ruhinda who also doubled as the play’s director is a portrayal of family disputes compounded by division, envy and uncouthness. It exposed a family that was going through trying times with everyone seeking for an escapade.
The eldest daughter of the family, Linda, buried herself in the family business and executed her duties to the highest of standards. The family’s son, Arthur, although an excellent business ideologist fell for the luxurious life of women and recreation. The mother, a very smart woman when it came to running the family and the family business submitted to the comfort of her personal male assistant, Michael. And the father, the brain behind most of the family ventures decided to escape from his separation mysteries by dating younger women, eventually falling for the charms of a young lover, Miss Grace.
The plot thickens when trying to restore broken family ties. However, Baba’s House presents a slither of hope to an otherwise irreparable family bond. This light at the end of a very dark tunnel showed that despite the ups and downs, families can actually sit down and reflect on the past, discuss current situations and choose to make amends and build a prosperous future. The play teaches us that forgiveness, understanding, patience and having love beyond self-love are very essential aspects to be embraced while fighting to build back families.
With an overriding theme of family separation struggles, Baba’s House also touched on the importance of self-care for workaholics. It displays an overworking Linda, who is always anxious and determined for perfection. The play goes further to touch on the importance of limitations when it comes to self-relaxation and recreation. This was personified by Arthur’s demeanor of backsliding in most of his endeavours due to lack of self-limit.
The play also highlighted the disadvantage of laziness and greed that kept Grace in a situation where she had no choice but to get involved with a man twice her age just to keep up with a certain lifestyle that she desired.
All these twists and turns were tied together by a comedy twist. The writer observed the severe impact that family feuds have on families, so much so that there needed to be a breather from all the intensity to provide a light moment for the audience. And what better way to do this than to dab into some comedic rhetoric.
One could not help but notice the fact that unlike so many other traditional plays, where people only sighed, screamed or expressed non-spoken emotions, this play’s crowd often filled the blanks by asking questions. For instance, when Mr Moshi and his wife, Patricia made amends and decided to go out for dinner, leaving Michael, Patricia’s special assistant behind, the crowd was heard inquiring, “What about Michael?” at least three times, until Patricia dismissed Michael from his duties. The crowd was engaged because the play created space for various feelings to be felt and in some way expressed at once.
While speaking to The Beat, actress Iman Lipumba who played the ambitious daughter of the family, Linda, praised what she termed as an “impeccable” script. “We were mostly strangers but the play allowed us to come together and build a family-like chemistry,’’ she added.
Ally Abdallah, an experienced actor, performer and writer, who has worked in different parts of the world like Canada, Malaysia and New Zealand and portrayed the role of Michael, the special assistant to Mrs Moshi, touched on the play’s importance, saying it allows most people to see their lives on stage, “and on top of it, the play gives ideas on how to go about family conflicts without separating,” he said.
First-time actress Tunu Mwawado who played the mother of the family was able to get in touch with a comedic side which made her ease in to her character.
There was also Joe Legendary, a raw talent who played Arthur Moshi and has in the past acted in school and church plays but is now looking to engage in professional acting if at all it makes ends meet.
Misuka Tarimo, the lead actress who portrayed Grace, was prepared for this role owing to her interest in acting. She wowed the crowd with her acting skills and this might not be the last time they will see her on stage. “I aim to per take in drama and language studies in the near future,” she revealed.
Last but not least, Baba himself, Mr Peter Ngaiza, a new talent who’d never acted before but managed to bring alive his character to the excitement of the audience. “I have never come across auditions that needed older actors to take part in an English play until Baba’s audition,” he said.
Feedback from the audience spoke volumes of the play’s success. Daniel Adams, one of the spectators pointed out that the stage setting and design as well as the costumes were on point.
Crespo Fares, a Dar resident also in attendance was impressed with Patricia’s role. “Patricia was my star of the show. Her entrance was enticing and eye-catching,” he said. Crespo also hailed the impactful role of Baba himself.
Another member of the audience, Sabrina Yegela said she enjoyed the play more than she expected. It was funnier than I anticipated, well-scripted, well-acted and had good set design,” she praised.
Artist Ngaira Mandara, who is credited for Baba’s portrait said he was moved by Michael’s mysterious character that really drew the crowd. He personally felt like a part of the family and at the same time felt as if he was actually in the background listening to the family.
Raya Majallah, a first-time theatre attendee learnt about the play through social media. Though she couldn’t comment on the more professionally-aligned assessment, she did say that she was fully entertained.
The sisters behind Baba’s House, Alinda and Angela Ruhinda said they intend to use Kiswahili in some of their projects in the future and that they will also adopt other African plays. They were impressed with the audience turnout and hope to go bigger next time.
“It was such a great and exhilarating experience. The actors did a great job as well as the stage manager and tech support. We are blown away by the talent that was brought forth by the actors and the whole team in general. This is an indicator that Tanzania holds far-reaching talents,” said Alinda Ruhinda, the producer of Baba’s House.
The Ruhinda sisters pointed out that they face a challenge with sponsorship but they believe as the audience grows, sponsors will be beguiled in the process.
By Diana Elinam