Peter Tosh’s first play staged at Kayole Social Hall and attracted only four people. But today, his plays have thousands of audience
Faith Gachobe @wangechigachobe
American Poet, Dorothy Parker, once said that creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye, and when you sit in one of the plays by Peter Tosh, this phrase begins to make sense.
I was recently at Kenya National Theatre and had the privilege of experiencing the thrill of one of Tosh’s plays first-hand. The play, dubbed Ring and Bell, left me in stitches and I couldn’t help but wonder how Tosh got where he is now.
After the play, I pulled him aside, sat at one of the stone benches under a tree and he began to narrate his story. The 30-year-old wasn’t always an actor or a scriptwriter. In fact, he wanted to be a web designer.
When Tosh completed his secondary education from St Paul’s Boys High School, Kisumu, he came to Nairobi with mindset to pursue web designing. In 2003, he enrolled at the Institute of Advanced Technology for International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL). Unfortunately, Tosh was unable to continue to university due to financial constraints.
A year later, Tosh decided that self-pity was not his way of life. Knowing nothing about acting or theatre, Tosh approached a theatrics group he had been observing for a year and asked to join them. To join, he was tasked with coming up with a script of a character.
Opportunely, he did well and they decided to give him a chance. Tosh performed with the group for about four years, mostly doing high school set book plays. Through the training and experience he gained from the group, he was able to navigate as an actor through the help of mentors such as Sammy Mwangi.
In 2007, Tosh appeared in a few scenes of Papa Shirandula, a series aired on National Television.
Being a staunch Christian, Tosh began to desire participating in more Christian-oriented plays.
He desired to be part of a production that was not only entertaining, but also educative.
However, he didn’t know if anyone would be interested in watching Christian plays.
In 2011, seated with his friends in Kayole, Tosh thought of an idea and discussed it with his friends. He wanted to start his own group.
To him, it was a bold step, but to his friends it sounded like shear madness. Tosh began the group and named it Liquid Arts Entertainment. “I chose the name Liquid because it is malleable. It was also how I was feeling about my life at the time,” he says.
The same year, Tosh staged a play called Butula’s Mirror together with his friends at Kayole Social Hall. He was excited and talked about the play to everyone he would meet. Things seemed to be taking the right direction.
“I was proud, excited and I couldn’t wait for people to show up. However, only four people turned up and they paid Sh80 for a pair of tickets. So, we made Sh160,” he laughs about it. His next play was called Vale Shade and 12 people showed up. Since then, it has been a journey of learning and growth.
The following year in 2012, Tosh approached St Andrews Church where he was given a platform to host his plays. He had previously approached places such as Nairobi Cinema, but as a start-up, the cost of maintenance was too high.
In 2015, Tosh decided to partner with people who would help grow his company. He met a competent director, Mark Munyiri and a producer, Mercy Me. The two have since played a major role in making Liquid Arts the brand it has become.
The company came up with Liquid Academy of Creatives and focuses on mentoring young college students or anyone who is passionate about acting. The students are taught acting, scriptwriting, directing plays and how to manage their finances as creatives.
To achieve the best, Liquid Arts partners with organisations such as British Council, Kenya Film Commission Board, Shang Tao and Kkqrew BS. The programme runs for six weeks. To keep things flowing, the students pay about Sh2,000 per session for the six weeks every Saturday, after which they are awarded a certificate.
The journey has not been entirely smooth; some of the challenges Tosh and his colleagues have encountered have been navigating through the industry despite the naysayers, some of whom are in the creative arts industry. “Financial challenges at times hold me back from unleashing their full potential and getting a consistent arena is not always easy,” he adds.