Actors of South African Play Sarafina performed at Nakuru Players Theater [Photo:Kipsang Joseph/Standard]

Theatres in Nairobi and Nakuru have come alive with the re-enactment of the South-African anti-apartheid movie ‘Sarafina.’  

This has seen renowned artistes nurture talents in a bid to revive stage plays.

The ‘new’ Sarafina cast has already staged 32 shows in Nairobi and 10 shows in Nakuru. The cast admits that it takes practice, research, hard work and passion to depict the original scenes in theatres.

Sarafina’ Director Nash Stuart said the re-enactment of the movie in to a play is key in nurturing upcoming artists and winning back theatre lovers.

Sarafina is one of the famous movies which has been widely watched. Serving it afresh in theatres is a move to nurture upcoming artists while also giving a reason to theatre lovers to watch the play on stage,” Stuart said.

For the first re-enactment of the movie, auditions and selecting the main characters took at least six months. The characters, also had to grasp the culture, language and accent to re-enactment the play. 


“The re-enactment of the movie into a stage play itself took a lot of creativity, consultation and team work. The actors should learn to grasp South African English and bring the native accent perfectly for audience to relate. It takes dedicated six months to fully put everything in place,” the director added.

The first 32 shows involved actors based in Nairobi but subsequent shows in Nakuru incorporated upcoming artistes from the county.

“In the Nakuru show, we retained some of the characters including Sarafina, Mama Sarafina, the Mistress and we had to select others from Nakuru to play the role of principal, pastor among other characters. The initiative is aimed at giving an opportunity to upcoming artistes to interact with veterans,” he said. 

And from mastering soundtracks including Freedom is Coming Tomorrow, Safa Saphel’ Isizwe, Lozobuya, Sarafina and Lord’s Prayer among others, the cast seems to have grasped the South African language.

Hellen Mtawali[ Photo: Instagram @hellenmtawali]

Hellen Mtawali, who acts Mama Sarafina in the play says it takes a lot of practice to get the songs and accent right.

“I watched the play seven times and being able to speak 16 languages, I was able to understand the words better then sing.

“When we staged the play, I was also tasked with training the songs which are quite easy. The cast has to bring out the words and the accent to make it sound real,” said Mrs Mtawali, who is also the CEO of Afrizzo Voices.

In the play, she is the only actress who throws in a few words of Kenyan languages to capture the audience’s imagination. “Like during the Nakuru show, I related Soweto to Bondeni estate to capture the imagination of the audience.

“I also throw in words like ‘vitu kwa ground ni different’ and slang like ‘mayengs’ to localise it,” she adds.

Sheila Munyiva, known for ‘Rafiki’ and ‘Country Queen, is the face of the Sarafina play. Although she captures the role of the ambitious girl so well, Sheila says Sarafina is her first stage play.

“At first, I was nervous because this was the first stage play.

“I landed the role three months after the cast had been picked but with team work, we have made it this far,” she said.

The actress disclosed that she first watched Sarafina when she was nine years old.

“Taking up the lead role requires a lot of work because one has to work on the accent and watch the movie several times to understand and work at bringing out the best. Sarafina is an energetic play, the songs are rigorous and one has to keep the pace,” she said.

Artists perform Sarafina, a musical show, at Nakuru Players Theatre [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Eric Wanyama, who landed the role Principal was on stage when Sarafina was performed in Nakuru last week.

“Involving artistes from the region is a great move. For the first time, I landed in a big show with great actors we have only been watching on television.

“One great lesson I learnt is that a lot of investment has to be put in to something for it to be a masterpiece. Nakuru artistes also had to embrace team work,” Mr Wanyama said.

“Half of the cast was drawn from Nakuru to nurture talents and also expose upcoming artistes. The initiative was great,” he added.

According to Fanuel Mulua, who plays Crocodile, staging the play required a lot of research in to culture and language.


Samuel Dennis Maina from Nakuru who played Fire said the rehearsal was intense. In his role, Maina was the rebellious student who led protests in school.

“For once, Nakuru Players Theatre got transformed. For the first time, we used different kind of lighting and had to work and think fast. We were 130 crew members and everyone had to work on their role perfectly and move swiftly to the changing scenes.

“It was a great show that for once, we had to work with a director and great actors who opened up our minds,” Maina said.

Stuart said there are plans to stage Nairobi Half Life and Lion King in theatres across the country.