Different worlds, ages but same oppression

NAIROBI: Vera; or, The Nihilists-the first Oscar Wilde play-found its way to Alliance Française last weekend.

The historical play, although telling a compelling story of social oppression by Russian dictatorship government in the 1880s, communicated to the Kenyan audience and addressed previous and current socio-political climate.

The original play was influenced by true events and the same could be said about its adaptation retold by Strathmore Drama Society. It plainly spoke of the killing of political activists fighting a regime government.

Torture and execution of political activists, assassination of MPs and appointment of incompetent people to ministerial positions based on loyalty are some of the issues revealed.

Wilde is said to be radical through the writing of this play and Paul Ochieng', the producer of this masterpiece, agrees.

"We tried to be precise and as real as possible in contextualising the story to make it relatable to Kenyans. To be real you have to be radical and it gives the play a punch. That is not to say we speak of a specific African president. We told the current events across Africa and any person in any part of the continent can relate to the events in this play," says Ochieng'.

This 'radical' play is about Vera Talai (Jacinta Wachira), a fearless young woman who joins a deadly activism movement to avenge her brother's imprisonment. The ruthless government of President Kazungu (Ezekiel Mackenzie) sentenced him to life imprisonment.

The activism group is guided by the wisdom of prof Somo (Brian Seif) and the oath to terminate whoever is on the President's side.

The President's son, Alex Kazungu (Ramsey Njire) joins the activism group in a bid to free the people from the oppression caused by his father. However, Alex becomes president after his father is assassinated, a move that made activists regard him as a traitor.

Vera, one of the greatest assassins in their group, is sent to kill Alex for his 'betrayal'. Alex, who has seen the activities of his father and those of the activists, takes middle ground and thus completely loses his radicalism.

This play shows the role of activists in the society and their significance in development of a nation but also questions whether their hardline stance is a danger to the former.

"The world is changing and there are very few activists in Africa. The activists have never removed a president from power. People change due to societal and moral pressures and little to do with activists. The world has become a global village and any issue that affects Africa is discussed in length by the whole world and this forces political leaders to change," says Ochieng'.