Uganda Days 47-49: Think Like a Man
Three days in one post? I probably should have given Friday its own, but I'm a slacker, I admit it.
Speaking of Friday, it began, once again, with an interview at 9 in the morning. This one was in a part of town called Mengo (near the Buganda palace and stuff), with the Executive Director of the legal aid network (LASPNET) in Uganda. The interview went well.
Our next one was scheduled for noon with a professor at Makere University. Similar to yesterday, we figured it didn't make much sense to traipse all the way back to the office in between, so I googled it and found a Café Javas near the campus. I may or may not have treated myself to breakfast. Afterwards we hiked back up to the university (the hills here never seem that bad until you're actually walking up them). We met the professor at the law school, of which I remembered to take a picture:
This was the first interview I'd say was less of a success. The interview itself was fine, but the professor we were speaking with had very little to say about pre-trial detention. Still, I think there were some useful bits regardless.
We decided to go back to Café Javas for lunch, since it was either that or the Patisserie near work. I may or may not have treated myself to fajitas.
After which we headed back to work, arriving mid-afternoon. I spent the remainder of the day working on that awful transcription I started on Thursday. I'm still not even halfway through.
As soon as 5:30 hit I booked it back home to drop off my bag, then grabbed a boda downtown. Tonight was the opening night of that show they were promoting at the dinner last week, called Think Like a Man (which is apparently based off a movie?). I met Aliana down the street at a restaurant called Design Agenda, which had a really good rating, though in the end I think it was rather undeserved. Anyway, after dinner we walked back up to the theatre and sat down just a couple of minutes into the show. This sounds bad, I know—but trust me, it was a different atmosphere. There were people coming in and out for the first half hour at least and no one seemed to mind.
The show was...an experience. The story essentially boils down to this: the men want to get with the women; the women decide to take control of their relationships; drama and laughter ensue. You basically follow four or five different couples as they figure things out between them. It was a mix of dialogue and musical numbers, the range of which I could hardly describe, everything from Bieber to an a cappella rendition of "I Will Survive". And the dialogue was a mix of English and Luganda—they'd just switch between the two. Which was not really a problem, but it seemed like most or all of the best punchlines and one-liners were delivered in Luganda, judging by the audience reaction.
Speaking of which—did I mention we were the only non-Ugandans in the whole place? By way of illustration: Neil had to show up a bit late due to a prior engagement, so when he arrived (as he later told us), he just asked the usher where the two muzungus were sitting and she led him right to us. "Muzungu" basically means white people, by the way. Anyway, I guess the point is that this was truly a local cultural experience!
As I mentioned before, it was a very different theatrical experience than what I'm used to. The best way I can describe it is to say that the crowd was boisterous. People were talking far beyond what a western audience would consider intolerably rude, but no one seemed to mind, least of all the performers. And while I didn't hear any phones actually go off, lots of people were checking them throughout the show, again without incident—which is the only reason I took pictures during the performance. Imagine whipping out your phone during a play at home and holding up the bright screen to snap a photo. It was just so different, here.
People got right into it, too. When one character put her man in his place, the crowd would cheer and shout at the stage, throwing insults at the man and support for the woman. Or when the super bitchy rich woman came crying back to the man she had dumped a couple of scenes prior, the audience was not shy about their contempt. The amount of sass—it was hilarious. There was one woman sitting in front of us whose commentary was actually a highlight of the show.
Aside from all of that, the production value was at times comically lacking, but it never really mattered much. All part of the experience.
I think the greatest moment was the scene where all the men—feeling down after having messed up their respective relationships—broke out into "Careless Whisper". There they were, the whole male ensemble up on stage, moaning and depressed about their relationship troubles, and the next thing you know one of them is singing the first part of the song before everyone else joined in. There's something so wonderfully comical about a group of male characters—these five or six manly "ladies' men", supposedly—spontaneously burst into a heartfelt George Michael rendition. And then, right on cue, the random saxophone player enters stage left and nails that unmistakeable rift. Seriously, this was his first and only appearance in the show. They had a sax player just for this moment.
If I had to pick a runner-up for best moment: close to the end of the play, one women is talking to her friend about having broken up with her man. She says he's been trying to call her but she hasn't picked up yet. The phone rings. Her friend encourages her to answer it, which she does. And now, at this point, all it takes is that first unmistakeable piano chord to realize you're in for an Adele cover. And sure enough, the man's voice comes in with the first verse, as she holds her phone up to her and her friend's ear. As the song builds up to the first chorus, he appears on the staircase, walking slowly and dramatically down, singing into his phone. Glorious.
And in case you're wondering, it worked. They got back together in the end.
I wish I could describe these two scenes better, but there's really no way to explain how or why I found them so humorous. Then again, I'm sure they weren't meant to be funny, so maybe it was just my own strange sense of humour. Anyway, it was quite the evening. Definitely entertaining, though perhaps not for all the reasons it was intended to be. I'm glad I went, but I think that's just about all I need to see of the Theatre LaBonita.
Alright, moving on. I'd nearly forgotten about Saturday and Sunday. I won't try to follow that with another thrilling account of my usual lazy weekend. I did watch a movie last night, though—Carol. I thought it was brilliant.
Oh, and some good news. I finally booked a safari! Official and everything, deposit paid. It's this coming Friday to Sunday. I'll fill you in more when it gets closer!
And for now, I am off to bed. Have a good night!