THEATRE: A Ugandan ghost story

Saturday December 2 2017

A scene from the play A Ghost Story, by Lloyd Lutara.

A scene from the play A Ghost Story, by Lloyd Lutara, performed at the Kampala International Theatre Festival 2017. PHOTO | JAMES WASSWA 

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Amid the growing unrest against his dictatorship, a visibly angry president of Kawanda warns the citizens that the development milestones and peace that the nation has achieved under his repressive regime risk being eroded if he is forced out of power.

This is in a new play titled A Ghost Story, by Ugandan playwright Lloyd Lutara.

“I have put the internet in your pockets,” he boasts, adding: “If it is not me, then who? I am here until I am ready to leave. You can call me an enemy of democracy.”

Directed by Angella Emurwon, A Ghost Story revolves around university student Opio, who is gunned down in cold blood, and his girlfriend Masiko, subsequently gang raped while staging a peaceful protest against the dismantling of the democratic government.

A re-interpretation of Francis Imbuga’s classic play Betrayal in the City, A Ghost Story moves the action from Imbuga’s fictional post-colonial nation of Kafira to the modern fictional nation of Kawanda, a thinly veiled critique of the current political climate in Uganda.

Lutara said that when he read Betrayal in the City, he drew parallels to the news in Uganda today.

“It is 40 years since Francis Imbuga wrote Betrayal in the City and things haven’t changed at all that much.

“I kept the structure and more or less the characters intact, except for a few roles. I made the female characters’ roles bigger because in the original play their roles are minimal.”

A Ghost Story was among 11 provocative, informative and entertaining productions, readings and conversations that featured at the just concluded fourth edition of the Kampala International Theatre Festival.

This year’s edition showcased diverse contemporary theatre work by established and emerging playwrights. It was held at The Square in Kampala from November 22 to 26.

Other plays included A Night with Mao, directed and written by the Chinese-American actor/writer/filmmaker Robert Lin, La Negrophilie, written and performed by the American Zakiya Markland, and Born of Normal Parents, created and performed by Murray Molloy (Ireland/Spain).