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Playwright tackles relationships theme with her first musical

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Melissa (right) with her daughter and mom.
Melissa (right) with her daughter and mom. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU 

Grace Mercy Muruthi is a blossoming playwright to be reckoned with as we saw early this week when her first musical, Melissa, premiered at the Michael Joseph Centre.

Directed by Joseph Ochieng, her fellow Talanta Institute performing arts lecturer, Muruthi took a risk in giving her first play to be performed by a young cast who are also her students at the Institute.

Yet Muruthi wasn’t let down by either Rhoda Memusi who took the title role, or Philip Muoki, Melissa’s sweetheart, Dave, who’s in love with Melissa, but only conditionally as it turns out.

The rest of the cast, including Melissa’s friends and David’s family, were all committed to their roles. But two key players who didn’t have huge parts in the play are pivotal and mutually provide a moral compass that will turn the tide in Melissa life.

They are the Cucu (played by Eva Wangari) and Melissa’s little girl (Nelly Wambaire). Cucu, Melissa’s mother is adamant against her daughter wasting herself by returning to wedding plans with Dave. Clearly, she has heard about his physical abuse of her child. She undoubtedly has also heard about his typically male attitude of not wanting another man’s child in his life. It’s an attitude that compels many Kenyan women to either conceal their child’s existence from the prospective spouse or stick with the child and leave the man, as Melissa eventually does.

Cucu also knows that once a man lifts a finger against his woman, he can easily do it again. So she protests against Melissa’s departure with Dave once he comes home to their village and woos her back into his life.

She is deeply concerned for her daughter’s safety and generally disapproves of the man. Melissa doesn’t listen, however.

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That’s where the other key player in the show comes in. It’s Melissa’s unnamed daughter that ultimately turns the tide on her mom’s decision to wed or not. Yet just as in Zippy Okoth’s two installments of the Diary of a Divorced Woman (both staged earlier this year), it takes the woman way too long to admit to herself that she need not tolerate the abuse she receives from her man.

In Zippy’s case, the abuse went on even longer than Melissa’s. But it would seem that both playwrights, Mercy and Zippy sought to portray the plight of women in relationships with men who apparently feel free to clobber the women closest to them.

In Zippy’s case, the woman was beaten even though she was the mother of the man’s child. But that didn’t seem to bother Ricky, her spouse.

Fortunately, Melissa chooses to get out of what might have led to more domestic abuse by not showing up at the wedding. Nonetheless, she had already been hit by Dave more than once and it seemed Melissa was willing to suffer that fate again just so she could become ‘Mrs. Dave’.

In an interview prior to the show’s opening, Muruthi had noted she had felt compelled to write Melissa because she knew too many single mothers who were willing to sacrifice their dignity, physical well-being and potentially, even their lives just so they could have a man, ideally a husband living with them. They wanted the status more than the security, which Mercy felt was wrong.

“I wanted Melissa to show that single mothers could make it on their own. They don’t have to believe that life would be better with a man, any man, with them,” said Mercy.

Ultimately, Melissa the musical achieves her aim. However, it was something of a surprise when, at the last minute (on opening night), she absents herself from the wedding. We had just seen her in her wedding gown so we, along with Dave and his uncle (Joseph Gakure) we were confused when she didn’t show.

Up until then, Melissa had looked like she was just like the other women willing to go all the way into wedlock in spite of their knowing they might be putting themselves in harm’s way.

In subsequent shows, Melissa’s daughter shows up with the Cucu when Melissa’s all dressed and set for the big event. But her heart melts at the sight of her child and the realisation she might lose their precious bond once she marries Dave. So she makes the fateful choice to cancel out.

It’s a surprise ending but it works. It also fulfills Muruthi’s plan the write a play that wakes up both women and men.

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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021

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World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.

“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.

He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.

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People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.

For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.

Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.

“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.

ALSO READ:Global Economy Plunges into Worst Recession – World Bank

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Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.

“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”

According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.

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Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans

The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.

Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.

Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.

SEE ALSO: Central Bank Unveils Measures to Tame Unregulated Digital Lenders

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Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options. 

This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.

The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.

The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.

The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).

The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.

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The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour;  Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).

The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.

Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”

He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.

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