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Legendary Lwanda Magere’s life re-imagined by new play

By George Orido | Jun 18th 2019 | 4 min read
The cast of Lwanda Rockman, The Play by Chatterbox in action at the Kenya National Theatre Sunday 16, June 2019. [Standard]

He is tall and built. He is the ultimate protector of his community. Without him, his community’s pride is vanquished. His name is Lwanda Magere.

And in a play currently showing at the National Theatre, Chatterbox Productions has recreated the story of a legendary Luo hero, Lwanda Magere, in a new play christened ‘Lwanda Rockman’ (Xavier Ywaya).

Written and directed by John JJ Jumbi, the play relives the story of a man who led the Luo in war against the neghbouring Nandi or the Jo’Lang’o and also helped his community to win many battles with no casualties.

The enemies tried many tricks, including poisoning his food, but they couldn’t bring him down.

“You are crazy. What do you think a woman can do. We have tried with this elite military and we haven’t succeeded,” retorts the Chief Intelligence Officer in the Nandi Defence military, Konte (Justin Mirichii).

Military ahead

He is reacting to a request by a woman, Chichi (Alison Nyawira), who wants to join the military ahead of an operation against the enemy.

Chichi manages to convince both Konte and the commander (Munga Maseru) to buy into her idea after which she gives Lwanda’s secrets to them, the same way Delilah did to Samson in the Bible.

Chichi’s is a huge and delicate task. Any false move would translate into disaster for the Nandi community.

This comes just after Lwanda’s announcement he wants to get married and a beauty pageant has been organised to help him get the best bride.

But there is a problem; the pageant is only meant for Luo brides as per tradition which Lwanda is expected preserve.

But in a turn of events, Chichi makes it to the pageant. This is after the three contestants in the race fail to impress impress the judges, Medusa (Lucy Wache) and My Dear (Valentine Njeru) and wins.

“How could you leave us for that tiny little snake, viper and tasteless thing? Our men love it fleshy like they love fish without bones,” protests Athola (Akinyi Oluoch) who had entered the competition as Atipa (Auudi Rowa). “We are not boarding,” she retorts.

Atipa’s protest remains the most comical part of the play, especially because it brings political-style civil disobedience into matters romance.

But the protests by the Luo contestants fall on deaf ears as Chichi is betrothed to Lwanda.

And Lwanda is not happy with the treatment he receives from his people after some of them refer to him as traitor.

“How dare you call me a traitor when I have always protected you? I have killed hundreds to protect you. Without me you are dead. How dare you?” says Lwanda.

However, he seems unaware the alienation from his people is the beginning of his end.

His bride takes advantage of the situation, urging him never to trust his community again.

“You see how contemptuous they are to you. You see they have left you alone. I am the only one standing here with you. We must destroy them before they destroy you,” she tells Lwanda.

And like in The Ides of March, Lwanda’s days are numbered. He however continues bragging that no one can defeat him in battle.

Unknown to him, Chichi has already shared the secret of his strength, which lies in his shadow, to Konte who is actually her lover.

Konte appears for the battle of his life, defiant and contemptuous. However, his is taken down in no time by the mighty Lwanda.

Lwanda celebrates his conquest over Konte but this is premature. Konte moves towards his shadow and spears it. Lwanda falls down in the play produced by Brian Okoth.

Jumbi and Okoth may have left out a few aspects of Lwanda’s life, including his first Luo wife and folk music in their production. However, they have brought out the internal and emotional conflict in Lwanda through his relationship with Chihi.

In the original story, Lwanda’s birth was fulfilment of a prophesy that the community would get a hero and from a young age, he started showing signs of invincibility that caught attention of the elders.

Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o and his son Nyong’o Junior flew in from Kisumu to watch what they term as a beautifully told story.

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