Manchester, Review

Theatre Review: Fractured Memory at HOME, Manchester

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“The Elections in Kenya are a time of uncertainty. There’s something in the air, something suicidal.” Ogutu Muraya

By Pierangelly del Rio


The 2017 SICK! Festival brought a performance of Fractured Memory to Manchester’s HOME last week. The play explores the questions surrounding how we deal with a complex inherited history and is a combination of video projections, text extracts and storytelling. It re-imagines the American novelist James Baldwin’s Princes and Powers, an essay which describes the Congress of Afro-intellectuals, writers, artists, philosophers and theorists held at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1956.

Fractured Memory is written by and stars Ogutu Muraya, a Kenyan writer, theatre-maker and storyteller. Muraya is currently the Creative Director of the Theatre Company of Kenya and has produced works such as Are We Here Yet?, Four Strings in a Maze, and What Are the Odds? Like his previous works, Fractured Memory explores and examines the cultural, social and political issues within Kenya.

The play opens with a projection of a man cutting paper strings full of sentences, separating them into individual words, followed by a silent narrator who promises to tell many stories. This sets the tone of the play, which becomes a set of disjointed narratives and shifting perspectives throughout multiple years.

During the 60 minute performance, the audience explores the legacy of the Congress at the Sorbonne, learns about the socialist party of Kenya (KPU) and its eventual ban by the government, as well as childhood memories marked by violence and the distress caused by the social climate in the country. The topics of politics, race, colonisation and violence weigh heavily throughout the play, portrayed in a disjointed spectacle which plays with the boundaries between visual and oral narrative.

Despite the unconventional nature of Fractured Memory and the simplicity of the performance, its real value is transmitted by powerful images and Muraya’s voice. The audience finds themselves submerged in the diverse stories and captured by every word of the diverse narrations. The poetic language evidences Muraya’s talent as a story teller and serves as a tool to transmit the realities of a culture that might be unknown for some.

As James Baldwin himself said, “The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do… And it is with great pain and terror that one begins to assess the history that has placed one where one is, and formed one’s point of view.”

For more information about upcoming theatre events at HOME, visit the website.

About the author / 

Pierangelly Del Rio

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