The second is about Citizen Y, a young lady accused of refusing to pay her taxes, damaging property belonging to the electoral commission and refusing to stand up when the national anthem was playing. The state is out for blood, but she is strong and passionate in her defense, stating quite clearly how the money she sweats blood to earn and which the tax man eyes more often than not goes to fund immoral personal projects through a network of suffocating corruption; or why she should stand to an anthem whose values no one sees at all; or why participate in an empty voting process that is rigged from the beginning and serves no social good. It is a call of the conscience for her, and she refuses to bow to the state’s lack of creativity to draw the line between dissent and disloyalty. It is a case that has people concerned, including the media who are warned not to report anything about it as well as Judge Harvey who is given a written ruling to deliver.
Ultimately, the case queries the position of citizens in a democratic society. Is it right for patriotic citizens to just go on voting even when the system is not providing the kind of leadership that the country needs? Should the conversation on national values extend beyond rhetoric to a place in people’s hearts? And what ways are available to the citizen in waging, and winning, the war on corruption?
The case also argues for the price that those who fight evil must pay, and determine whether it is not too high. It is interesting to see what Judge Harvey would have ruled, for the play came to a close just as he was preparing for this, and after receiving clear instructions from Special Agent Charles who works for the ‘people’. The writer and director did suggest some dramatic ending to the whole saga in response to a question from the audience.
The play is also a personal journey for Judge Harvey. It is remarkable that the cases he handles in the courtroom bear a striking similitude to his own personal life. The third case is about a broken-hearted young man suing for damages after his girlfriend broke up with him. But Judge Harvey himself at one time broke the heart of the prosecuting attorney Laura. Hence her passion to pursue this case is also a pursuit for personal justice, for it is nearly impossible for Judge Harvey to condemn her client without finding himself in the wrong. While his intentions in ending his engagement with Counsel Laura were noble (he had to marry her best friend with whom he had misbehaved one careless night , he was also keen to safeguard his integrity as a jurist who is also a concerned family man) Laura’s sense of betrayal is strong as she is yet to get over that pain.
It is from here that we also see the Judge’s family problems. First, his wife is on his case because he spends too much time fixing other people’s lives while his own family is falling apart. She is particularly stuck to a point in time when Harvey cheated on her with Laura, and while they have had nearly ten years without any straying from him, she is unable to forgive him. His daughter, feeling the tension between them, has developed her own defense mechanism in the family – using the church as a shield against any injury from anyone, including school where she disregards the content given to her in favour of spiritual functions.
The deep issues raised in the play aside, the style of writing and acting is what gives it its beauty. The play delivers huge doses of humour, the satire is as sharp as you can get, and the metaphors fresh and deep. Each scene delivers these subtle messages with measured force, and there was no doubt the audience enjoyed every bit of it. The performances were also great, beginning with Judge Harvey (played by Peter Kawa) who delivered the dilemma facing the judge with admirable brilliance. Balanced by Counsel Chris’ (Walter Sitati) wit and sharp tongue with the emotional swerve of Counsel Laura (Ellsey Okatch), there was no doubt that this was well cast and executed. Meghan (Grace Waihuni) was most effective in telling the story of the woman who has to clean up after her husband, and her emotional depth was well captured in her efforts to try to move on with her life despite the disrespect she gets from the children and the coldness of a husband who is married to his job.
Hearts of Art has been around for some time now, having been founded in 2012 and has been staging entertaining and engaging stage plays on some of the most complex issues facing the country. The company deals with original scripts, and is persuaded that there is a place for story in the entire process of nation cohesion and understanding. As the Founder and President of the company, Walter Sitati says, we always think in terms of story. So the stories we tell ourselves matter because they have the power to change how we see and interpret the world around us.
It will be interesting to see what the team has next in the world premiere of Necessary Madness that opens in September 7-8 at Braeburn Theatre.