“Keep calm, Ugandan theatre is very safe,” said one of the expatriates that turned up for the Kampala International Theatre festival that took place at the Ndere Centre for five days from November 23.
This, after watching a rather spirited performance of Pamela Keryako in Black, a production directed by Charles Mulekwa and written by Aganza Kisaka. The patron was happy that many of the Ugandan productions he was seeing where unique, well-written and executed or written by youthful people.
“Trust me, if the youth got this industry, the government can as well put up a shopping mall in the physical theatre; the mental one is safe.”
The talk had started hours after Peter Kagayi’s opening production, The Audience Must Say Amen. In one of the poems, the performer suggests that in 2031, the Constitution Square and National theatre will have been replaced by barracks and a shopping mall, respectively.
The sad realities facing the known home of theatre and art, the National theatre, did not go unnoticed during the third edition of the festival. Even as Ndere Centre owns an auditorium, some patrons said they missed the theatre where the festival has previously been held. Due to lack of adequate lighting and sound proofing, among other factors, the festival was moved to Kisaasi’s home of Ndere troupe.
This year, the festival, according to its director Deborah Asiimwe, attracted many entries from Uganda, most of them coming from young people. For example, Kisaka, Kagayi, Courtinho Kemiyondo or Patricia Achiro are young people whose productions had the audience crying, laughing or, at other times, chanting.
This year, Asiimwe notes they even received scripts from two schools but many were not ready for production.
“These were secondary school students putting together a body of theatre about topics dear to them. I was shocked,” she says.
But she promises that she will keep in touch with the students to make sure the production is ready for next year’s festival. The lucky one, though, was Sammy Gideon Wetala, a student of drama at Makerere University, whose production Two Faces was presented at the festival as a reading.
William Chewe Musonda, a playwright behind The Most Wretched of the Earth, said the only mistake was that the festival was happening in a place only a few could access. But overall, Asiimwe and her patrons left Kisaasi very contented.