Lovers of theatre in Kigali were recently treated to a feast of William Shakespeare’s timless tale of love, ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ by Mamaland Performance Arts.
The bard’s romantic tragedy and drama premiered at the Kigali Serena Hotel with a full Rwandan cast that is nothing short of star-studded comprising Rita Bahire Umutoni, Jabes Azabe, Israel Dusabimana, Andersonne Uwineza, Willy Ndahiro, Ella Deneuve Utamuriza, Regis Bingo, Alain Gilbert Umuhire, David Ndongozi, Kelly Teta Umuganwa, Eugine Ishimwe and Mukama Wanjye.
Kigali is known for an artfilled life but we would be stretching it to say that theatre features prominently.
It doesn’t. If anything, theatre performances here are seasonal. It was thus more than satisfactory to be in the audience and soak in the delightful staging that pointed a burning spark of life present in the emerging Rwandan creative scene.
This particular ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ directed by Mukama Wanjye did justice to the classic with its rendering of the full English story set around love, society and conflict, taking the audience way back to the city of Verona of the 16th century.
In the story, Romeo and Juliet, a young couple from two families united in hate, fall in love.
But the age-old hate just won’t let them be.
Romeo’s cousin, Mercutio, is killed by Tybalt, a relative of Juliet’s, bringing about a new bout of hatred.
The six months that went into the play’s production are evident as the cast takes over the stage with a powerful entry that reflects the split, through a fight between the servants of the Capulets and the Montagues.
One of the captivating scenes is the romantic and poetic dialogue that Juliet, as she stands by the Balcony, shares with Romeo.
The couple’s love was never so clear as it was in this scene.
Hear Romeo speak of Juliet, when she appears on the balcony.
It is my lady. Oh, it is my love. Oh, that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing. What of that? He doesn’t stop there.
He is so enamoured that he gushes in encomiums and wishful thoughts:
As daylight doth a lamp.
Her eye in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.
Oh, that I were a glove upon that That I might touch that cheek
The characters behind Nurse, Juliet, Mercutio, Romeo, Tybalt, Capulet and Lady Capulet blow us all away.
At close to three hours, the production is quite long. And the director wanted it so to maintain the 1562 original structure of the play.
The cast further exercises Shakespeare’s core English dialect, coupled with the culture through behaviour, for example, by the noble family of Capulet.
For such a production, it is normal for challenges to crop up. For example, the cast was in modern clothes and not the ones of the Shakespearean era.
The production team will also need to work on the lighting and sound for an even better showing.
Mamaland Performance Arts plans to take the production on tour in Rwanda starting with the National University of Rwanda, Huye Campus, where it is to entertain students.