To discuss the use of Dedan Kimathi’s courtroom trial as a dramatic strategy, think about the main elements of drama. One of the primary traits of drama is conflict. A dramatic story—or, in this case, a play—will typically feature a significant clash. In Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Micere Githae Mugo’s play, the trial provides a concrete setting for Kimathi and the judge to clash and argue. It’s as if the trial is the stage in which the drama of Kimathi’s fate unfolds.
The drama is furthered due to the pressure placed on the judge and Kimathi. The spotlight is on them. Before the judge and Kimathi confront one another, the stage direction reads “dead silence.” Here, it's possible to argue that the people in the courtroom—the actors—become audience members as well. Like the actual audience in the theater, they must be quiet in order to witness the drama between the judge and Kimathi. In a way, the trial creates a second kind of performance. The courtroom scenes might be described as a play within a play.
Of course, the trial itself results in sharp, contentious dialogue between the judge and Kimathi. They do not agree on what constitutes law or justice. Thiong’o and Mugo effectively exploit their incompatible interpretations to dramatic proportions.