Theatre returns after Covid-19 restrictions is eased
Covid-19 restrictions meant that people could not attend live theatre shows. This saw the postponement of some live productions, while others persevered and were staged to online audiences. With the pandemic slightly easing this year, stage plays are making a comeback, writes Njeri Maina
When Covid-19 pandemic hit home early last year, the creative arts industry was one of the industries that was worst hit.
The theatre industry, especially, received a massive blow, as all theatre productions rely on the face-to-face element and the live interaction between audience and cast members.
Cyprian Osoro, a comedian and co-founder of Mkisii ni Mkisii productions, says performing a play live for audiences is quite different from recording it and distributing it later.
He shares how audiences have also shared that viewing experience is more enjoyable as a part of a live audience as you can share jokes with people you are seated next to with the shared energy making for a memorable experience.
Fortunately, with more and more people getting vaccinated and people being more careful and strictly following the Health ministry restrictions, live theatre shows are making a comeback.
Keeping at it
“We have staged several theatre shows this year. We are humbled that people are showing up all masked up and ready to have a good time.
Our first show was on last year where we did a Gusii night of comedy and music. It was a celebration of culture through comedy, skits, and music.
So many people showed up with some of our audiences sharing that they had travelled from far and wide to come for the show. Immediately after, the pandemic hit Kenya, which meant no more shows.
“The production company never had a chance to grow, but we kept hope alive, coming up with ideas for future shows and producing online content to nurture our audiences.
When the pandemic started easing this year, we held two shows at Kenya Cinema and Kenya National Theatre (KNT).
We are glad to say that audiences have started coming to theatres to watch plays, we could not be more grateful,” Osoro intimates to Spice.
Thespian, screen actor and Liquid Arts Entertainment founder, Peter Tosh, concurs that times have been hard for theatre players.
Despite the many changes and challenges that the industry has undergone, Covid-19 has to be the hardest one to surmount.
But innovativeness, and relying on God has helped him weather the hard times. He shares how Liquid Arts would move from staging live shows to airing them live online.
The ticket cost was lower, but at least the cast was still doing what they love while ensuring that everyone was safe and healthy.
He says potential clients would pay for the theatre ticket via mobile money, and the company would provide a link to watch the live play on.
The challenges included the fact that it would be hard to police the nu mber of people watching.
Whereas families coming for live theatre shows pay a ticket per head, online shows meant that only one family member needed to pay and then they would watch with their friends and loved ones as a unit.
But the added eyeballs were also an added advantage, as it meant that more people got to know of Liquid Arts.
Moreover, the people who were willing to buy the online tickets were diehard theatre fans who were at times buying the tickets just to support the arts industry.
“So far, we’ve done four live stage plays this year, with the last one being staged in August. We are currently scripting and rehearsing for Barua, our next stage play that will be staged live at the KNT from October 8 to 10.
We feel privileged and happy to be able to do this once again. We have an increased appreciation for live audience interaction,” says Tosh.
While the worst seems to be in the past, hopefully, the theatre industry is still grappling with many challenges.
Osoro shares how hard it is to get sponsorship for shows from both government and corporates.
He intimates that the government needs to give the creative industry more support, especially the theatre industry where most thespians rely on live shows for income.
The other major challenge is the lack of professionalism and technical know-how among actors, Tosh shares.
“To this end, I hold regular masterclasses to share the knowledge I have gained over the more than 10 years in the theatre and screen acting industry,” he says, adding that, just like Osoro, he has great belief in the latent potential of the Kenya’s theatre industry.