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Sunday, March 9, 2008

First play reading in Kampala

By Dennis D. Muhumuza

There is an American story of a play reading artist who read a scary Halloween script so well that it lured a monster out of the woodwork.

Well, play reading as a form of theatrical entertainment has since August last year been a part of Ugandan theatre. And Tuesday, February 26, will be the first ever public play reading presentation at the national theatre.

Written by Mr. Joshua Muvumba, a History professor at Makerere University, Batanda-Bezaala [Kings Beget Kings], will be read by a carefully chosen cast that includes Kwezi Kaganda and Kenneth Kimuli of the Theatre Factory and Ugandan writer Ulysses Chuka Kibuuka, among others.

The three-act script is true to the events of history. Suuna and Kaitaba, who were respective rulers over Buganda and Kiziba in the early 1880s, are locked in battle over the use of the household name that previously belonged to Suuna but has been 'hijacked' by Kaitaba. The highly vainglorious Suuna is so offended at "this insulting indiscretion" and demands "200 hens, 200goats, 200 sheep, 200 cows, 200 girls" in apology and the demolition Kaitaba's "farce of a house" and proclamation by Kaitaba himself that the name Batanda-Bezaala must never be uttered anywhere in his realm except in reference to my own [Suuna's] house." It's this conflict, this contest between "a giant and a dwarf, a mighty kingdom and a kinglet" that drives the play.

The combination of humor and pathos, the clever, funny, regal and thought-provoking language together with the strongly contrasted situations and the use of chorus [chanters] as part of characterization reminds one of the Greek classics.

But will the presenters manage to arouse emotion and stimulate strong interest than would have been on stage?

The director, Kenneth Kimuli, believes they are ready for the challenge following rigorous rehearsals.

"Unlike a stage performance where actors use physical action, movement and voices, we depend wholly on vocal and facial expression to help the viewer visualize and feel with the playwright," he said.

During one of the rehearsals, it was appealing to watch the actors in a round, reading with voices so animated, clear and alert and gestures to match the traits of the protagonists and the spirit and tempo of the entire play.

This show will start 6p.m, and entrance is free.

--The Ivory Post, March 6, 2008