FILM REVIEW: When Trash Turned To Gold
- Millaz Players’ production of ‘Taka taka’, which was staged at the Kenya Cultural Center last weekend, made clever use of this linguistic twist. It also touched on the essence of the screenplay written by Howard Lumumba.
- Yet Lumumba himself says he didn’t do it alone.
Takataka, a word in Swahili, means garbage. But taka taka, two words, takes on a whole new meaning. It’s “I want, I want”.
Millaz Players’ production of ‘Taka taka’, which was staged at the Kenya Cultural Center last weekend, made clever use of this linguistic twist. It also touched on the essence of the screenplay written by Howard Lumumba. Yet Lumumba himself says he didn’t do it alone.
“We developed the story together, and then I was given the task of developing the dialogue. I also realised,” he told the audience who attended the show on Sunday afternoon.
Lumumba clearly seized the opportunity. Millaz fans loved the piece about a corrupt politician named Mataka (Andrew Esirom) who receives a bag of so-called “dirty laundry” (possibly dirty money?) delivered to him in a large garbage bag in plastic.
The bag disappears after being found by a mentally handicapped man named Sam (Brian Irungu) who was sent by his sister to retrieve it. But he is not fit to handle such an important task in his fearful state of mind.
Nevertheless, Sam finds the bag his sister wants, but gets stuck in Mataka’s kitchen once everyone wakes up.
From there, the story gets frantic as nearly everyone who shows up wants something from the bag.
Most threatening is Clifford (Ken Aswani) who gave Mataka the laundry bag in the first place.
It turns out that Clifford seems to have mafia-style dealings which get on Mataka’s nerves after the bag goes missing.
Apparently, it was housekeeper Clémentine (Terry Munyeria) who got rid of the bag. But it’s one of the many confusions that bring levity to the piece.
In fact, it was Sam who found it, then put it in his backpack, and finally had to hide, first in the fridge, then in the oven, and finally in a closet.
Sam, in his dementia, gives a wonderful sense of suspense to the play. We never really learn who he is or what he is looking for. But his paranoia keeps him stuck in Mataka’s house.
Mataka, like Sam, is also plagued by fears, only his own are related to Cliff and the missing bag.
Once it is decided that Clementine must be the one who threw the bag, the whole family rushes to follow the garbage truck supposed to contain the precious garbage bag.
The contents of the bag are never explicitly revealed. But the two garbage collectors who claim to have found the bag return alongside the family. They bluff, but the negotiations start anyway.
A collector, Machingli (Robinson Mudavadi) wants to squeeze Mataka for all he’s worth, while his partner, Mathao (Ted Munene) just wants a chance to get close to Mataka’s “Baby Girl,” Leila (Saum Kombo).
Others with desires associated with the bag are Sam’s sister Samantha (Shirleen Ishenyi) who, towards the end of the play, finally shows up since she lost contact with Sam and wants to take him home by completely safe.
She also claims that she wants what is hers, which is unidentified. We can guess that she and Sam are the children of Mataka by another “woman”. But before we can find out, Clifford returns.
He came for the bag, asking for Mataka for the last time. Luckily, a “reality TV” producer (Shirleen Kadilo) who inexplicably walks into Mataka and Mama Leila’s (Boera Bisieri) kitchen with her photographer (Mike Ndeda) unexpectedly distracts him.
But once Cliff realizes the bag is gone for good, he knows he too is finished since his mob buddies are now shooting him. This is what leads Cliff to his unthinkable end.
Observers questioned the play’s ending, asking why Cliff had to finish off everyone, including himself.
Was it to reflect on the futility of wanting material things since no one got what they wanted except for the two survivors of Cliff’s murder?
The end of the play left many questions unanswered, like what was the point of the garbage guys being the ones who found the hiding place? Mathao doesn’t want the wealth to be hidden in the bag anyway.
He just wanted to write poetry. And Machinyli is a would-be con man who would have taken Mataka for all he could when given the chance.
So was there a message for Taka Taka? Could it be with Mathao, the poet whose poetry, (as a symbol of Art in general) will survive when all else turns to dust, or rather garbage? Maybe that’s the point.