Subira, A New Musical produced by Silent Voices Uganda in conjunction with Kenya’s Gilb’Art Productions slated to open in Nairobi.
22 years old Lukalia only ever had two dreams – to join the Kenya National Army and be at the forefront nationalising the nation post-independence; and marry his village sweetheart, Subira. He is well on track for both, until he finds himself caught up in the middle of the events of the 1982 Kenyan coup d’etat, not only fighting for his freedom, but on the verge of losing both dreams.
This is the story in Subira, A New Musical set to run at the Kenya National Theatre from the 30th of July to 8th of August 2021.
But this production has a story of its own. The two directors of the production, Uganda’s Adong Judith and Kenya’s Gilbert Lukalia met back in 2010 at the Sundance Writing Lab in Lamu where the two struck up a friendship that they have maintained over the years working together on Silent Voices Uganda’s Just You, Me, and the Silence in 2017 with Adong as writer and director and Gilbert leading a cast of both Kenyan and Ugandan actors.
It is this continued working relationship that produced the idea of Subira, A New Musical. Gilbert wanted to tell the story that taps into African military recruitment in the 1980s. The story would also talk about the attempted 1982 coup in Kenya. Adong heard about the coup for the first time from Gilbert and together they decided to do the play. Although they would be dramatized as theatre does, as a writer, Adong knew it was important to get all the facts right. She therefore requested that Gilbert does an interview with his father who had served in the military to get the specifics. From the story it was clear that the military in Kenya and in Uganda had almost the same mode of operations. They wanted to tell the story as a musical inspired by Gilbert’s passion for Sauti Sol’s album “Mwanzo” But that was that for years.
After the 2017 contested elections in Kenya Adong linked up with Gilbert and discussed the need to finally have the play on stage. Among other things, the story elements and its execution was discussed. A few days later Adong sent Gilbert the treatment to the story. Things now picked momentum and after more than 3 years of research, writing, workshopping and rewriting, Subira, A New Musical, was ready for production.
Still, just like Lukalia’s dreams keep being interrupted in the story, so was the production of this musical because after auditions were held in both Kenya and Uganda, actors confirmed, the plans to premiere the show in Kampala in 2020 then tour Kenya were disrupted by the Covid-19 global pandemic. When in early 2021, the producers finally felt they could continue, challenges still popped up from all corners. Uganda was still under heavy restrictions on gatherings and movement so the decision was made to move the production from Kampala to Nairobi. Auditions were redone to fill up roles for actors who were no longer available and with virtual activities being encouraged, open calls were sent out and this time the actors had to send in their audition tapes. This enabled actors to audition from anywhere and that is how actors like Charles Ouda who is playing Alusa in the musical got to audition while still in the United States.
Intense rehearsals started in early June and continue to the opening night on 30th July. As part of Silent Voices Uganda’s annual theatre apprenticeship, this production has three up and coming theatre directors in training from Uganda, Malawi and Botswana.
Subira, A New Musical heralds a new beginning for theatre as we all adjust to the new normal. The production brings a blend of known actors led by Nice Githinji (Subira), Charles Ouda (Alusa), Gilbert Lukalia (Afande Mo) and a load of talented new actors like Agnes Kola (Subira 2), Thuita Christopher Mwangi (Situmo) and more to look forward to.
The play and lyrics were written by Adong Judith and music is by Kaz Isaac Kasozi who is also the show’s music director. Along with Gilbert as Adong’s co-director, they lead a powerful crew of theatre professionals from Uganda, Kenya and the United States. Subira, A New Musical is produced with support from Stichting DOEN, Africalia, Bayimba Foundation,The Kenya Cultural Centre, Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC), among others.
Subira, A new Musical will open on 30th July and run to 8th August at the main auditorium of the Kenya National Theatre. Tickets are available for booking. All Ministry of Health Covid-19 protocols are to be observed in all the shows.