Fun factory: Cracking a rib
It is ten minutes to 7 pm and the National Theatre main auditorium is almost full to capacity. It is Fun Factory’s first time at the Bayimba festival in which they are also doubling as sponsors. Small wonder then, that their debut is one of the highly anticipated shows.
By Elizabeth Namakula
I count myself lucky to get a seat and though thirsty, I can’t budge an inch for fear that by the time I come back, I will be seatless. That is how popular Fun Factory is!
Five minutes past 7 pm and there is still no action on the stage. In the sixth minute, they eventually show up with their signature tune, the nursery rhyme in tow, Twajja tuli mbuzi, kati tugunjuse, abazadde mwebale okutuwerere! (We came daft as goats but thank you parents for educating us).
A young girl of about ten years (Anne Kansiime) walks across the stage stealthily. She peeps and then retreats! She looks scared as though she doesn’t want to be found out. Unfortunately, a woman whom we assume is her mother discovers her and reprimands her sharply. She even goes as far as getting a stick. The girl starts to cry.
‘Where have you been? You should have come home before six!’
‘We were doing exams.’
The audience laughs.
The mother eventually sees her holding a report card.
‘Here, let me see that.’
‘It’s my school report but my grades are half of what they should be because of inflation. Plus you only paid half of my school fees.’
Mother scrutinizes the report before she erupts,
‘What rubbish is this? You can’t even divide 63 by 2?
‘I don’t know!’
‘Let me show you!’
She proceeds to grab her. The girl’s father appears at this point and separates them.
‘What is this?’
‘Father, father help, she wants to strangle me for nothing.’
‘Why are you spanking her?’
‘What sort of education is this girl getting if she can’t divide 63 by 2?’
‘Well, can you?’
‘Of course I can. The answer is definitely 2, what are you talking about?’
‘And I thought you daft. Why, the answer is definitely 2.’
The scene fades while the audience erupts in incredible laughter.
A cult following
That and more is the reason why the group has established a cult following since its breakaway from Theatre Factory on the brink of their six year’s anniversary two years ago. The Fun Factory members include:
Dixon Zizinga, Richard Tuwangye, Kwezi Kaganda, Frosbisher Lwanga, Evelyn Kemizinga, Ninah Katamba, Veronica Namanda, Veronica Tindikyebwa, Emma Kakai, Catherine Bagaya and Destiny Mutasa among others.
Previously, I had met with Richard Tuwangye, one of the founding members, and he was only happy to talk about the group and their journey so far:
“We had to break away as a whole for our art to survive. It wasn’t about one half of the group leaving and the other half staying. A few decisions were made affecting what some actors earned and that in the long run we realized would be affecting all of us. So we were destined, fate put us together! We didn’t break away, we simply evolved because every artist evolves themselves into what they want to be.”
According to him, the first few years were simply an introductory part to a genre of entertainment that was less known in the country.
“Comedy as a genre wasn’t much of a profession. So it was hard at first getting people to appreciate it.”
On how the group gets its ideas together, he says they gather every Tuesday and each person contributes their ideas which are then beefed up by the entire group.
“One group member can say, here is a situation between a man and girl…”
The way he says it brings to my mind Veronica Namanda, one of the group members, so I ask him if Vero would mostly say that. He cracks up and admits that yes, Veronica is most likely to begin an idea with such a sentence.
“Spontaneity is important to us because the industry has not grown to an extent of hiring writers. I will have to admit that we improvise sometimes.”
Definitely as the industry grows, the need for writers will become eminent. Gone are the days of being paid chips and tomato sauce as renumeration for performances—that is how far comedy for this group has come.
A deaf man, a police officer and a prostitute
Back to the present, it’s Act 3 and the location is the police station and the subject is how difficult communication can be. A man attempts to fondle a woman and is intercepted by the policeman. The man starts to make signs as a way of talking to the police officer who can’t make head or tail of what he is saying.
The deaf man (Richard Tuwangye) tries making sounds but he is barely audible. The woman stands aloof staring at them. The deaf man finally begs for pen and paper. From his writing we get to understand that the woman staring at them is a prostitute. His complaint is that though he paid her, she doesn’t want to give him the services for which he paid!
The policeman asks the woman,
‘Why don’t you deliver the services, after all, weren’t you paid?’
‘He simply wants more than the twenty thousand shillings he paid for.’
The deaf man waves his hands in protest.
‘Officer, I can give him back his money. I am not sleeping with someone like him.’
The officer writes for the deaf man to understand, in turn the latter writes,
‘Disability is not inability!’
The officer pockets the money instead of giving it to the deaf man like the prostitute insists and instead motions to the deaf man to claim his service. He responds immediately by running after the woman who flees like the wind is chasing her. The scene ends to thunderous laughter and applause.
50 skits to follow…
More acts follow until the last one where accents are mimicked from the president, the Nigerians and down to NTV’s reporter, Agnes Nandutu. When all the comedians assemble for recognition, the audience protests. Obviously not satisfied, wanting more. Richard to oblige them announces that there will be more action every Thursday nights at the National Theatre which is their new home.
Starting October 4th, they will also stage 50 skits across two nights called ‘50 years of madness’. This is to celebrate Uganda’s Golden Jubilee and the two nights will unveil their best skits so far.
Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you, pay them a visit come October 4th and you will certainly have your ribs cracking.
Elizabeth Namakula is a freelance writer living in Kampala, Uganda. Her short story “A World of Our Own” was recently published in the Femrite-collection “World of Our Own”.