Politicians' duplicity plays out, but will voters fall for it again? – Business Daily
Heartstrings kiss n tell reconciling. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG
Heartstrings’ latest production, ‘Open and Shut’ could not have opened with a more timely topic, namely the 2022 general elections.
It is a coincidence that the following day, September 5, after the show’s final performance, Kenya’s Supreme Court announced its ruling on Kenya’s next President.
The crew was careful not to mention a single candidate by name, knowing how sensitive the topic is on Kenyan streets and inside people’s homes. Yet, there was preaching on the part of Maxwell (Paul Ogola) that everyone should wake up early and get out to vote.
Everyone included the former crook-turned-pastor (Tim Drissi) who had been sprawled out, sleeping on Maxwell’s living room floor when he was rudely whistled to rouse by Maxwell who was not joking.
He believed a new day was coming, and that everyone, even his daughter (Bernice Nthenye) should take part in this peaceful transition of power.
Yet ‘Open and Shut‘ theatre performance did not feel as comedic as most Heartstrings’ productions do. That is in part because many Kenyans were feeling the tension of having to wait so long to find out who won the presidency, and how the losing side was going to react.
Another point that is not very funny is the gullibility of many Kenyans who get lied to every election year when politicians come home with promises galore.
What is tragic yet funny is how easily the public falls for the lies that promise everything from water, milk, and Guinness to ambulances, doctors, and nurses, brought to every home.
Heartstrings’ cast (L-R) Paul Ogola, Fischer Maina, Makrine, and Wairimu in Chicken or the Egg at Alliance Francaise, February 5, 2022. PHOTO | POOL
While a whole line of folks are seated, waiting to be let into the government premises where they are meant to vote, they begin to share their candidates’ tall tales, like getting boreholes in every household as well as free medical treatment, and even treatment before they are sick.
At the end of that line is the spoiler, Kamiru, the twin brother of the wife who had promised to come home to Paul and their new daughter…after six years. Kamiru is the one who reveals how cons can come in many forms, be it pastoral, political, financial, or domestic.
They can also come in any genre, including a female like his sister, Charity (Esther Kahiho). She arrives at the polling station after him and initially gets called out by those waiting who are quick to see the injustice of not following the line.
But it’s the brother whose small fundraising helped get her to the States who’s most bitter. Like everybody, including Paul/Max, he’d expected her to come home after six years. But now six had stretched into 20, and she claimed she had only come home to vote.
Yet we soon discover she’d been deported from the US for who knows what. Probably illegally overstaying her student visa.
But whatever it was, she was back with a con-game of her own. One of the oldest and most outmoded stereotypes about America that have been popular since the 1960s – is that the streets in the States are paved with gold and big money grows on trees just waiting to be picked by eager immigrants like her new Kenyan friends who just need to give her cash which she says she’ll double once they land in the US.
The one person who wants nothing to do with Esther is Paul. He doesn’t see her initially when he walks in, chastising his daughter Bernice who he’s discovered voted for the other candidate, the one he had told her not to pick. She’s quick to confess her political illiteracy.
“It was his dimples”, that she admits mesmerised her and made her vote for the cuter guy, revealing her level of political illiteracy.
In the end, Esther succeeds in conning almost all the Kenyans she meets. Even Paul/Maxwell believes he is going to be rich once he receives the dollars he allowed her to bank on his behalf. Her twin brother tells Marty he is shocked that he could be that naïve twice in 20 years!
It is no surprise to find out the same day they’re all meant to fly, that Esther has skipped town and now is in Dar es Salaam.
She has left behind not the true believers who wanted so desperately her stories to be true, but even her spouse, daughter, and the tall man with the peculiar quasi-black American accent who turned out to be her son.
One only hopes the Kenyan people were not as easily conned by their politicians as all those duped by Esther were in Open and Shut.