There is something about opening a theatrical drama performance with Shakira’s “This time for Africa” that promises lots of exciting, fast-paced action. Like a car-chase in the opening sequence of a movie, this song just gets you pumped up for any starting show.
But even more strongly, this song brings out the child in many Africans as it is one of the most popular songs for African children (especially if you were born before the Sponge Bob Square pants era) . And that’s exactly how it was in the first scene of the Christmas pantomime, Cinderella… If the shoe fits.
The pantomime was performed by Kampala Amateur Dramatics Society (KADS) at the National Theatre from December 1 until December 3. Staying true to its definition, this pantomime was aimed at the whole family but with the main focus being the children; so much so that at some point, candy rained on the audience from the characters on stage, as part of the plot. And like with all pantomimes, there were lots of music and dancing, topical jokes, slapstick comedy, and of course based on a fairy tale.
Written by Charles Perrault in 1697, “Cinderella”, the quintessential rag- to-riches story, was tailor-made and localized for the Kampala audience. And so, Cinderella is enslaved and kept in rags by her mean and ugly step sisters; Petunia and Gladiola. The King and Queen of Kampala encourage their son, Prince Charming, to search for a bride by hosting a royal ball for all the single ladies of Kampala at none other than Serena hotel.
It’s a shame that not many Ugandans attended the shows as the audience was largely expatriate, with a good percentage being children. Either Ugandans did not know what they would miss by not coming, and so they didn’t care to attend, or the communication was most targeted at expatriates. Right there is a point for improvement.
That such a gem should go unnoticed and unappreciated by Ugandans when the artistes did a great job adapting the Cinderella story to the present day Kampala was regrettable. Written by Alastair Taylor and directed by Arfaan Bholim, all the jokes were tailor-made to tickle a Ugandan audience; jokes about simcard re-registration, KCCA inspectors, government corruption, traffic jams, bodaboda riders… even Cinderella is referred to as the Countess of Muyenga. And one of the songs the patronesses at the grand ball dance to is Bebe Cool’s Kabulengane. Clearly so much time, thought and creativity were put into the preparation for this play.
The two and a half hour shows were so engaging that not once did I feel the need to check my WhatsApp or Facebook.
Needless to say, KADS is a group to be followed closely by both theatre fans and practitioners.
KADS is voluntary drama group that comprises people in different professions who act for leisure. The membership is currently mostly composed of expatriates with only a few of Ugandans. The group stages 4 plays annually including dramas, comedies, musicals and pantomimes.