By Jedidiah Andrew Lwanga Ssebaggala
After watching 30 Years Of Bananas last Friday, I can now say without a doubt that #Philip is one of Uganda’s BEST 5 ACTORS (Male or Female) that I know!
My longest collaborator of all time and theatre maker Adong Anyira Agoro for over 10 years of our collaboration has always told me Philip is her NUMBER ONE ACTOR in Uganda and he seems never to be getting off that No.1 position year in, year out!
You may ask what prompts this kind of convo or if you are mean, you can even call it gossiping; well as theatre makers we need to keep ourselves abreast with the happenings in the industry and since we always yearn for the best we need to know the best and collaborate with them if and when possible.
In Philip’s case the “when” is yet to materialise for whenever we need to collaborate he is engaged in one way or the other.
My position has always been Philo (as I prefer to call him) is one of Uganda’s best from the time I saw him act in a South African Tv drama series Egoli, then in early 2000s when he performed in Alex Mukulu’s 30 Years Of Bananas and my first time to watch him perform with a more critical eye in Charles Mulekwa’s Between Me and You.
I later saw him act during the old good days of Theatre Factory – TF Uganda’s Thursday Comedy Night and of course his acting on screen in the various TV drama series like Makutano Junction.
In 2009; Philip was recognised the Best Actor during the 50 years of Uganda Theatre and I remember he got an accolade from the man himself Alex Mukulu at Theatre Labonita.
Since the disbandment of his team at Theatre Factory Uganda almost 10 years ago, I have not seen Philip acting on STAGE in a full length stage drama production like this, that he also directed.
Two months ago Philip invited me to go see his new Arts Space which he has since then baptised Playwrights’ Playhouse. He has nursed this sort of dream at least in my case since 2007 when he first shared with me.
I went to his arts space and while taking me around he shared with me his vision and plans for the space. I felt him feeling relieved that now he has his own space to make theatre his own way which truly he is sooo passionate about and emotionally attached.
I expressed my joy, pledged my support and I asked him when he was to open it to the public.
He said he wanted to open it in a special way that befits his dream and desire for the theatre in Uganda.
And as such, that he will open it with a classical play by a respected and renowned theatre legend, whose name and works need no introduction when you talk about Theatre in Uganda; for the millennials, I am talking about Alex Mukulu and his play 30 Years Of Bananas.
Last Friday; Philip lived up to his word and indeed delivered his own creative breath and rendition of Alex Mukulu’s musical play 30 Years Of Bananas.
For those that have read the play or watched it before know that the main actor #Kaleekeezi gets on stage way later into the play. I think this what prompted the person seated next to me to ask; “is Philip going to act?”
I said, “of course. Didn’t you see him on the poster?. Just wait!”
Once Philip got on stage; the entire production dynamics changed and the show took on another shape. I started hearing the quiet audience now alive, reacting with whatever emotions he evoked and provoked while on stage.
Indeed it felt as if the cold #Morning of ACT One in the City Square was done. Philip came with the warmth and fast pace of the #Afternoon since ACT Two is set in the afternoon at a Museum.
Philip is a brilliant and fantastic actor. He is so natural. He never struggled to make any case as an actor. You see him enjoying his role. He wore the full character element of Kaleekezi; the Museum Guide and I can tell you, I have been to the Uganda Museum, no one guides like Philip in Kaleekezi.
I stated if only each of us was diligent to their work like Kaleekeezi was at the Museum, we would be in a better place. I recommend that the guides at the Uganda Museum come and watch this play; it will inspire them to better their tour guide in the Museum. Philip makes you want to go to the Museum.
I realised that Philip is not just an actor but a great narrator and story teller. There are a number of scenes where the playwright used storytelling and if one is not good at storytelling, the play would drag and we could get bored.
With his skilled physical acting and storytelling you couldn’t get bored; he took you to various places, feelings, smells, sights and lives of different Ugandan Presidents through the mind’s eye!
At the Museum scene; I missed unveiling the different Presidents’ busts more especially that all these president’s busts have no ears to listen to the people they are leading. (That was my disappointment) I think that imagery and symbolism is much stronger and powerful when shown to the audience than only seeing it in our minds eyes or imagination.
My best part of Philip’s acting power and I silently clapped, was the Football scene where Philip as #Kaleekeezi transforms into a #Political #Evangelist. Man! You pulled off and nailed the “mzungu” (White man)’s demeanour, accent, movement, attitude, gestures and looks.
With no make-up, only costumes to depict the Mzungu, I totally didn’t see Philip nor Kaleekeezi but the Muzungu asking “Independent Ugandan”; ” Is that all you need”?, Is that all you want?, is that all?. “I will give you expatriates to supervise what I give” to poor independent Uganda that never started playing until the Mzungu came back!
That’s the turning point for me in the play that makes me feel and advocate that all leaders watch this brilliant piece of art; who knows they could get inspired or crazy to serve Uganda better!
Phillip; You pulled off that part and artistically saluted you; it a total transformation from Kaleekeezi to a Political Evangelist.
You DIRECTED yourself well!
Since you double as Director, I liked the pace of the play. I liked the energy of young cast from start to finish. The energy was balanced and they seemed to be enjoying their roles. I liked the way you directed your chorus and choreographed movement of the chorus. I liked that you chose to work with young and emerging actors and performing arts students. That’s building the nation.
I was able to spot some really good potentials. I liked it that you started on time with or without the audience. I like it that you are running the shows for one and half months giving everyone an opportunity to watch the play.
Above all I liked it that you gave the play your creative breath and did not cut and paste Alex Mukulu’s directorial concept despite being part of the play’s production when directed by Mukulu.
More effort in the lights; I felt they were flat yet the Acts are demarcated into the Morning, Afternoon and Evening; the Lights could bring that out better.
More efforts in chorus parts especially the unison responses and acting or living their roles naturally not over acting as if its showy contest. The singing too needs more work so it syncs with the keyboardist.
More efforts in marketing the show. Being an open space; I think it’s important to inform our theatre goers that it is an open space and as such to move with a scarf, pull over or jacket.
To this end I wish to congratulate you my brother and your team on your maiden performance at your new Arts space. I enjoyed the play and it was not a waste of my time and money! I understand the challenges of the first show and as promised I will come back towards the very last performance late July.
The play is showing every weekend Friday, Saturday and Sunday from June 19 until July 31. Surely you can’t not claim you don’t have time for it!
Mr Ssebaggala is a Creative-Arts Producer, Business Development Specialist. An Arts facilitator and Talent Manager.
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