Who got hit be­low the belt in Heart­strings’ new play?

THEME Show paints a sorry pic­ture of the ma­te­ri­al­ism, im­moral­ity and in­sen­si­tiv­ity of young Kenyans to­day

Business Daily (Kenya) - - WEEKENDER - Mar­garetta wa Gacheru mar­garetta.gacheru@gmail.com

The ti­tle, Be­low the Belt begs the ques­tion: who is hit­ting and who is get­ting hit?

In Heart­strings Kenya’s lat­est pro­duc­tion of the comedy Be­low the Belt, ev­ery­one seems to be hit­ting or get­ting hit.

The story is about present-day re­la­tion­ships in Nairobi and young peo­ples’ view of them.

Set in a club, it starts with two young sin­gle women (Ade­line

Nimo as Mon­ica and Gindie Kahuha as San­dra) gos­sip­ing and fuss­ing about boys, other girls and the poor qual­ity of ser­vice in the club.

Both have had re­cent break-ups, but only San­dra seems open to start­ing over afresh, es­pe­cially if the guy is a doc­tor like Charles (Vic­tor Nyaata) as his friend Ben­son (Nick Quach) claims he is.

Yet Ben is just a hum­ble hos­pi­tal or­derly who’s heart­bro­ken as he’s been hit ‘‘be­low the belt’’ by his wife Flora who walked out on their mar­riage a while back for no ap­par­ent rea­son.

Ben’s friend Char­lie has brought him to the club ap­par­ently to coax singing karaoke style (he calls it ‘Kar­iuki’) and get­ting Ben to dance with San­dra who’s keen to catch a pro­fes­sional man.

It turns out Char­lie seems to have also been hit­ting be­low Ben’s belt be­cause he’s se­cretly got the hots for Flora. We’re left won­der­ing at the show’s end whether Char­lie’s mo­tive all along was to get Ben in­volved with an­other woman so that he can pro­ceed with Flora!

But Char­lie doesn’t get off Scot­free. When he tries to get it on with Mon­ica, this frosty woman in­forms the club staff that he’s in­de­cently dressed in the store room as she’d promised to meet him there.

In ef­fect, she too hits him be­low the belt. But Char­lie also man­ages to hit Mon­ica back by bor­row­ing cash from her ex-boyfriend just as she’s been try­ing to make her ‘ex’ jeal­ous by let­ting him see her danc­ing and hav­ing fun with an­other man.

But then, that other man hap­pens to be the same guy who goes and bor­rows money from Mr ‘ex’, show­ing him she had sad­dled her­self with a poor beg­gar man.

Be­low the Belt paints a sorry pic­ture of the ma­te­ri­al­ism, im­moral­ity and in­sen­si­tiv­ity of young Kenyans to­day, or at least those who are look­ing more for money than true love.

It par­tic­u­larly paints an ugly pic­ture of young women as be­ing petty gos­sips pre­pared to run with mar­ried men (prefer­ably those with so­cial status and wealth), ir­re­spec­tive of how many chil­dren they have at home or who’s bound to get hurt.

It also shows women to be hyp­o­crit­i­cal and mean to sis­ters who they per­ceive to be ‘‘be­neath’’ them so­cially. (I sus­pect the script was writ­ten or de­vised by men.)

But the show can also serve as a cau­tion­ary tale, sug­gest­ing that it’s wise to be­ware of match­mak­ers (like Char­lie) who may have ul­te­rior mo­tives for set­ting you up with the ‘‘per­fect part­ner.’’

Ul­ti­mately, the show-stealer of Be­low the Belt is Vic­tor Nyaata who came on stage danc­ing in fine funky form and clearly keen to ca­jole his friend Nick into hav­ing a jolly good night. His seem­ingly spon­ta­neous Karaoke song and dance rou­tines are hi­lar­i­ous and skil­ful si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

But Vic­tor and Nick are of­ten paired as a gifted comedic team in Heart­strings Kenya shows as they play off each other re­ally well.

The only flaw in Be­low the Belt is the for­mat this time round. The Em­cee who came on in be­tween scenes needed a bet­ter script writer to give her wit­tier and snap­pier lines. Oth­er­wise, it was re­fresh­ing to see a poised fe­male take on this chal­leng­ing role.

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