- The show sparked a lot of laughs over the past weekend after the audience grew so large that the production had to switch from Ukumbi Mdogo to the Kenya National Theater.
- Yet Xavier Nato’s screenplay was never meant to be a light comedy.
- Like Millaz’s previous pieces, beyond the jokes and clever choreography of the cast, Black Out has a compelling moral message that cannot be easily ignored.
At first glance, Millaz Arts’ latest production, Black Out, looks like a series of wacky, fun jokes centered around a group of exuberant college students on one big, bulky frenzy.
The show sparked a lot of laughs over the past weekend after the audience grew so large that the production had to switch from Ukumbi Mdogo to the Kenya National Theater.
Yet Xavier Nato’s screenplay was never meant to be a light comedy. Like Millaz’s previous pieces, beyond the jokes and clever choreography of the cast, Black Out has a compelling moral message that cannot be easily ignored.
And as for the title, there wasn’t a single blackout leading to a whole room “blackout” so why the name? Because the Millaz blackout is a psychological condition (not an electrical one) as well as a metaphor. It is also a subject that is not easily discussed with young people today.
Many are more inclined to value experimentation than receiving lectures from adults about the dangers of doing things like alcohol, “bhangi” and other intoxicants.
The title of the play is reflected in the first moments when we see six students “passed out” and lying all over Tony’s (Howard Lumumba) living room. The first to wake up (Brenda Gesare) goes straight to the bathroom. But within seconds, she screams, crosses the stage, and finally passes out in fear. One by one, they wake up to see what the heckling is. All react in the same way.
Apparently someone is dead. But rather than call the cops, they all panic. Now it’s all about “who-dun-that?” Series director Jackson Mudavadi (who also plays stupid cop number 2) has his cast acting ridiculously in a semi-slapstick style, each accusing the others of being the “murderer.”
Eventually they settle on the guy (Donwill Kidero) who delivered what they later learn was a ‘weed cake’. He also brought cocaine and other intoxicants that everyone had to try. Even the mkorino guardian’s daughter, Wamaitha (Shirleen Kadilo), who the six quickly realize, is the one who is “dead.”
The way they treat the dead girl is a dark comedy bordering on macabre. Tony offers to take the body and dismember it, describing what really happened recently to the Saudi journalist who “disappeared” after being literally turned into dog food.
But young people are probably still high after a night of drinking, smoking and indulging in other “recreational” intoxicants, some of which are life threatening or debilitating at best. At present, everyone is involved in the cover-up, including drug dealer Shikhuyu.
The chaos reaches stratospheric heights when two cops arrive at Tony’s apartment. They came because Tony had called them briefly before he changed his mind. But before they are allowed in, the body is made to look “alive” as Wamaitha wears sunglasses and a mask. Hiding your corpse is one of the funniest scenes in the series.
It also seems that NATO does not care about the treatment of the dead by local cultures.
As they investigate Tony’s place, Cop 2 nibbles on yesterday’s leftovers and sprinkles cocaine on the snack. He gets high quickly, speeding up the hilarity with his goofy behavior.
The two eventually leave, only to return, now intending to charge them all with murder. Yet what we soon learn is that Wamaitha “died” in a manner similar to Shakespeare’s Juliet, who passed out for a while, but woke up moments after her Romeo had died. suicide.
For a moment, we imagine that will be Tony’s fate too. But instead, NATO uses several interesting devices to keep its public on our toes. One is to inject several alternate reality scenes, like the one where Tony calls the cops to confess that he killed the guardian’s daughter.
Another is going back to the night before when we see how Wamaitha joins the drug party and tries everything including a poisonous alcohol that literally knocked her out.
The other device is the room’s “magic weapon”. It’s the rapper (Saumu Kombo) who arrives on the show multiple times, serving as a moral messenger to rap about how indulging in decadent activities like alcohol and drugs can only lead you to despair.
The only unsettling moment near the end of the series is Cop 2’s deathly treatment of the Guardian (Ted Munene) and no one gets upset. There is even a moral message there. This is because drugs and guns can easily lead to impulsive actions, like killing for fun.
Black Out has an awesome way of mixing hilarity and horror to hammer home a tough reminder. Congratulations to Nato, his cast, including the director of the series.