BETRAYAL IN THE CITY
STYLE: COMIC EFFECT
Francis Imbuga loves to use characters who say nonsensical things to bring about some laughter and enjoyment in his plays. In Betrayal in the City, such Characters are Mulili and Jusper. Jusper however is an intellect whilst Mulili has no tight grasp of the English language. While using such characters, the playwright sends to us vital messages which are somehow hidden in the innocence of the characters who project them. People like Mulili may be viewed as ignorant in the light of their poor English and therefore what they do may not have a huge impact in the present day society. By so doing, the playwright handles very delicate truth without raising emotions which could land him/her trouble with the authority. This could explain the reason as to why despite his satirical writing, Francis Imbuga still remained in the country during the Moi regime while people like Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Katama Mkangi fled Kenya into exile.
While talking about justice, the playwright uses Jusper’s soliloquy to address one of the major fears in the present world- the lack of justice. According to Jusper, just like Jupiter, Justice is absent. Humorous as it maybe, it underscores the pain in the majority of people who have tried to seek justice but as usual, those in the authority have their way.
A recent example is the teachers’ strike of September 2015 in kenya. The teachers’ unions took their case to court- the labour court and the verdict was that the government should honour its promise of paying teachers the 50-60% salary increase. The teachers Service Commission turned down the offer flatly and appealed to the High Court which had a similar verdict. The case was appealed up to the Supreme level until when the upper arm twisted the verdict to suspension of strike pending negotiations. The arm-twisting of judicial independence in Kenya show just how those in power are willing to go to make sure that the courts are on their side.
Another similar example is the 2007 election in Kenya. The opposition refused to go to court declaring that the courts were not trustworthy. This led to chaos that saw six Kenyans being taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. However, the ensuing drama after the Post-Election Violence of 2007-2008 has shown just how weak justice is to the downtrodden. The result has been numerous church services to pray for those indicted by the court while the victims dry their tears in temporary camps that they have learned to call home. That is the justice Jusper states that it is absent and truly Justice is absent.
Secondly, Mulili’s poor English relieves the tension within the play. Despite the fact that Nina and Doga are mourning their lost child, Mulili’s poor English diverts us from the grave situation into the spate of laughter for example when he says no glass goggles. By making the audience laugh, it is just like the numerous memes online nowadays, it rubbishes reality of assassination in the society and welcomes ridicule.
Francis Imbuga in his wisdom knew very well how grave it is to expose assassination and make it fiery. He however subtles it with humour. Presently, we have seen so many memes which play on the pain of the majority through comic videos and photos that instantly becomes viral on twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. It could be that people are afraid to face reality or are just foolish.
We laugh at Mulili’s broken language which plays out well since it hides the man’s horrific other side. While laughing, we regard him innocent and ignorant and therefore the audience hates Boss more than they show vehemence to Mulili.
When Jusper scares Regina the audience is elated by Regina’s response (pg32). However, this reveals the expectations of the people of Kafira. They fear living because they know that anytime, death from those who are meant to protect them is inevitable.