Too Early For Birds, a theatrical series that brings stories from Kenyan history to the stage, is back for its 5th edition. This installment will feature stories from the life and death of Tom Mboya, a charismatic politician and trade unionist who was assassinated in his prime. The director of the show is Mugambi Nthiga, who recently directed the film, Lusala (2019). Easily recognizable from his appearance in the gritty crime flick Nairobi Half Life, Mugambi is a multi-faceted actor, writer and director who started acting at the age of 5. The bald-headed, goatee’d artiste co-wrote the critically acclaimed children’s film, Supa Modo which premiered at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival 2018, and was awarded a Special Mention from the Generation Kplus Jury. His other credits include curating and directing Stories From The Mall, a theatre tribute to the events of the 2013 Westgate terrorist attack, and co-writing Kati Kati, a feature film that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016.  Too Early For Birds: Tom Mboya Edition is produced by Story Zetu and will be staged between 5th October 2019 and 6th October 2019 at Visa Oshwal Community Center, Nairobi, Kenya. There will be five shows.

Publicity poster for the ‘Tom Mboya Edition’

The Too Early For Birds series exploded into the theatrical cosmos when the mind of history blogger ‘Owaahh’ collided with those of performance artists Abu Sense and Ngartia. The idea behind the productions is to tell ‘stories from Kenyan history in a fresh, funky style and from the lens of today’s young generation.’ Since their 2017 debut, they have brought to the stage the stories of such historical figures as Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, author/activist Zarina Patel, controversial cleric Timothy Njoya, freedom fighter Field Marshal Muthoni Wa Kirima, Kamba prophet Syokimau, Otenyo Nyamatere, William McMillan, Nyayo House torture survivors, and the dreaded gangster triumvirate of Wanugu, Wacucu and Rasta. To date, there have been 4 productions, 14 out of 15 sold out stagings, and a Sanaa Theatre Award for ‘Best Production’.

‘Too Early For Birds: Brazen Edition’ scores at the annual Sanaa Awards.

The previous productions were:

Edition 1:  Unsung Heroes – The first volume was staged on the 17th of May 2017 and focused on people who never made it to Kenya’s mainstream history. It was produced by Miriam Kadzitu of Code Ink and directed by Wanjiku Mwawuganga.

Edition 2: Dissent – It ran on the 29th and 30th of July and focused on Kenyan stories of resistance. It was produced by Miriam Kadzitu of Code Ink and directed by Wanjiku Mwawuganga.

Edition 3:  Badassery – Stories from the history of violent crime in Nairobi, Kenya. It was staged on the 13th and 14th of January of 2018. And returned on the 19th due to public demand. It was produced by Miriam Kadzitu of Code Ink and directed by Wanjiku Mwawuganga.

Edition 4:  Brazen – Executive produced by the LAM Sisterhood and Story Zetu. Brazen was created, researched and written by the ‘LAM Sisterhood’ of Laura Ekumbo, Aleya Kassam, and Anne Moraa. It focused on telling stories of heroic women in Kenyan history, and was staged by a team composed entirely of women – both in cast and crew. Produced by Gathoni Kimuyu and directed by Wanjiku Mwawuganga. It ran from the 27th to the 29th of July, 2018.

An earlier production in the historical storytelling series. (Photo: Courtesy)

With Edition 5, centering on Tom Mboya, the organizers are no doubt hoping for even bigger impact and reach. According to official communication from the team behind the show:

“As one of the country’s most illustrious luminaries, Thomas Joseph Odhiambo Mboya – known simply as Tom to those who adored him and TJ to those privileged enough to be close to him – was a rare phenomenon. He embodied a new generation of young, brilliant and driven Africans who were hell-bent on making the best out of freshly independent African nations. We grew up with this enigma hanging over our heads. Yet 50 years since two assassin bullets ended his life, no one has filled his shoes.

Now that they are in a position to do so, they would like to dig deeper and learn who this fast-rising star was. How did a boy from the labourer quarters of a colonial settler farm come to be friends with Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Martin Luther King, John F Kennedy… before he was 30 years old?! How did his initiatives, such as the airlifts that bequeathed us the likes of Wangari Maathai, Barack Obama, and Philip Ochieng, come to be?

They are exploring stories from Tom Mboya’s life… and death. The juicy, the astounding, the jarring, the tantalising stories as written by Ngartia, Magunga Williams, Mercy Mbithe, Hellen Masido and Wanjiku Mwawuganga.”

 Tickets are available at Mookh.com and the gate charge is Ksh 2,000 (USD $20) per head.

 

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.