Besides the group awards in the recently concluded 51st edition of the Kenya Schools and Colleges National Drama Festival in Kisumu, there are individuals who excelled in acting, directing, narration, scripting, dancing and as soloists.
And in a scene reminiscent of the Oscars, the evening greats walked in jubilation mixed with disbelief as their names were read out, some with citations from adjudicators, to receive trophies, certificates, books and air tickets.
In the colleges category, the Adjudicators Award went to Kizito Ochieng’ of Kagumo Teachers College for his role in the play Dreams of Redemption.
The Best Actress Award was bagged by Mwanaisha Kwania as Bi Kombo in the production, Mtazamo, by Mombasa Aviation. The first runner-up was Naylor Mussy, who acted as Natasha in Eregi Teachers Training College’s, The Album.
And the second runner-up was Mourine Orondo who starred as Phlora in The Scar, presented by Kericho TTC.
Praise Munyambu almost moved the audience and the bench to tears to win the Best Actor Award in his emotive role in the Anti Climax, presented by Nairobi Aviation.
His co-actor Rogers Nginja, acting as Professor, was number two with Peter Otieno of Eregi TTC as bishop/judge in The Album taking the third position.
This is a clear sign that The Anti climax by Nairobi Aviation won because of polished acting among other strengths.
The production’s director Elly Wafula ran with the Best Director Award, followed by Musonye Atsenga and Mugoha Musungu from Eregi TTC, who shared the second position.
In the third position was Mbashir Shami of Mombasa Aviation College with Mtazamo. While most of these actors gave a good account of themselves, most of acting was wanting.
It seems most directors are only interested in having students run through their lines and then mask any weaknesses with gimmicks such as gadgetry, spectacles and ineffectual sounds or music.
"The result is that students shout themselves hoarse, act in a stiff and inhibited manner and generally get exhausted with performance," explained the adjudicators before announcing the winners.
In the primary section the Best Producer went to Phanuel Imbusi of Lions Primary School with Three is a Crowd, sharing the limelight with his directors Lilian Mdiga, Mary Adhiambo, Felix Ogutu and Margaret Muteri. Sylvia Wanjiku and Kevin Kiromo, in Three is a Crowd, won the Best Actress and Actor respectively, whilst Sharon Atieno and Dennis Okanga were runners-up.
In the dance genre, Caroline Hare of Riperbi Academy singing in the dance Kech with authority, ease and presence, was declared Best Female Soloist.
She was followed by Martyne Shisia of St Anne’s Primary from Western.
Eric Mutie was the Best Male Soloist. He led Kinyambu Primary in a highly competitive category that saw girls whitewash boys, whose dances never appeared in the top three.
Kinyambu’s Mwamuko received a consolation Adjudicators Award for representing boys in the competition.
Yet the secondary schools’ participants extolled boys’ performance in the dance after Kakamega High School’s Bilunjuli bagged the winners trophy with Edwin Omega emerging Best Soloist. David Rombo from Dagoretti High followed with Friends School Bukembe claiming the third position won by Fred Angwelo.
From Nyanza, Ngiya Girls’ Laurine Gudu led the pack of the best soloists as Rachael Veronica from Rae Girls took the second slot followed by Karima Girls’ Gladwell Gitonga.
Heir to throne
This is an interesting account after Karima’s Kaa Chonjo scooped the second best dance overall. The narrative had its heir to the throne too with Sammy Mukami from Murang’a High School taking the coveted Best Narrator Award via The School Bus.
Nicholas Okwatch in, Wibroda from St Mary’s Yala, was second and Chris Maero of Friends School Kamusinga took the third position. The fact that these three have won the best narrators awards by themselves having taken part in a tandem narration means their performances were strong.
"Some weak narrators pull down the stronger ones, thus reducing the overall achievement of the performance," observed the adjudicators.
But this will remain controversial with a few who feel that a duo is complementary and each supports the other.
Marist University’s Clifford Ouma Sidandi and Blance Waena were declared the most promising university actor and actresses respectively. This was before Masinde Muliro’s Gabriel Mbombo in the winning play Permutations was given the Best Actor Award.
Veronica Kwamboka bagged the Best Actress in Amani, a play by Catholic University directed by Dr Simon Peter Otieno.
Kisii University College’s Njeri Monica and Catholic University’s Robert Ouma were runners-up.
But the icing on the cake of the individual awards went to the indomitable Kakamega High School, who provided the all top three actors in the secondary section with Dennis Wilhellim, Pascal Esingi and Horace Wesa taking gold, silver and bronze respectively with their play, The Storm, directed by Oliver Munishi, who is also the school’s principal.
Horace Wesa was the best actor in the winning French play, La Pentagone, and will travel to Paris, France, with his teacher Alex Wakhungu for a one-month fully paid vacation courtesy of the French Embassy.
But this story can never be complete without mentioning the five-year-old Denise Namududu accompanied by her classmate Blessings Kalunde from Mwangaza Day ECD. They won the hearts of many and clinched the pre-unit section with solo verse, The Primary Class.