By Silvia Cassini
Published February 17, 2016
A theatre play inspired by a terrorist attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in 2013 shall be staged in the Kenyan capital in March 2016.
The play, titled A Man Like You, is a conversation between a British hostage called Patrick North and Abdi, his Somali captor. It is set in a windowless concrete room in Somalia.
North’s wife, Elizabeth, provides a counter-point to the story, from the Norths’ house in Nairobi in this original play that is produced by The Theatre Company.
At the centre of the drama are the events of September 21, 2013 when Somali men from the terrorist group, Al Shabaab, opened fire on shoppers at Westgate, killing at least 67 of them.
Based on the television news footage that captured terrorists blowing civilians away in cold blood, many people concluded they couldn’t have been human. But that could have been a hasty conclusion as the same footage also showed them washing their feet and praying in the aisles of Nakumatt supermarket where many of their victims had died.
A Man Like You shows the world views of two men in discussion over 102 days. Debating issues such as good, evil, power, terrorism, and God, they challenge the viewers’ deeply-held views. Though Abdi and North rarely agree their basic humanity connects them, and the viewer comes to see that they are more alike than we, and they, may initially think. Both achieve a heroic struggle, and the intention of the play is to leave the audience questioning who, for them, is the real hero.
The character of Elizabeth mirrors the tension of the main action and tells the story of those left behind. Family members of hostages have frequently been described as the real victims of kidnapping, but their experience, due to the inevitable focus on the hostage, often goes untold. As she progresses from lethargy through anger and finally into acceptance, the viewer is understands her journey as the basic story of almost all heroic human experience.
The play shall be staged at 7:30 PM at Braeburn Austin Theatre (March 1 & 2); Muthaiga Country Club (March 4 & 5); Purdy Arms in Karen (March 8 & 9); and Braeburn Theatre (March 11 & 12).