Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Lagos theatre festival

The second Lagos theatre festival promised part theatre, part real life and part journey through the city of Lagos; it delivered on all fronts. The festival, aptly themed ‘A city that never sleeps, is full of stories that never end’, was a three day event with four plays in multiple shows. I saw the Sunday servings and wow! Was I thrilled!

The festival play ‘Make we waka’, was quite the captivating audio tour. It was not uncommon to see a passerby or two get caught up with an actor as they guided participating audience members in the ‘waka’. Make we waka  gave us an interesting and somewhat new angle to drama. It was innovative; it thrilled, but as the evening wore on, it became obvious to me that it had some serious competition. 

In Waiting for a Lottery, the audience participation was at once comical and exciting. The play opened with a faux audition scene for a purported Nollywood blockbuster.  The play mirrors the typical Lagos hustle; a jungle where only the strong and ruthless survive. Anxious actors await the audition that would propel them to stardom. This is the supposed lottery that will change their lives; make dreams come true. The play also had some comical references to the Nigerian situation that gave it extra depth. As would be expected, hostilities soared when the hoax is uncovered, and this climaxes in a slight twist to the tale. A slave driver scenario is introduced to the play and the response from slaves sounds too close to Nigeria’s reality. 

This reviewer believes that though this part of the play was significant in painting the symbolism of defiance and the resilience of Nigerians in the face of persistent corruption, oppression, and tyranny, this is one part of the play which could have been shortened for better effect. Nonetheless, the play had some very true-to-life characters, and the actors did not disappoint at all. Suffice to say, Zara Udofia Ejoh’s Oxygen Koncepts interpreted this play very nicely. Even Lekan Balogun, the scriptwriter affirmed this.

Diagnosis is a Theatre lover’s delight; anytime. It is the unexpected 419 tale where the usual Maga does not pay afterall.
Shortly before Nigeria’s same sex marriage legislation, Johnny and Danny successfully convince a Canadian mugu to fund their NGO- ‘Rescue Project for the Gay Dwarf Community’. A cheque of one million dollars gets into Johnny’s hands, and this sets a series of complications, beginning with a bout of temporary amnesia.
In the ensuing panic, more people are let into the big ‘maga’ deal and we see how greed can eat into the very core of human relationships. Every one wants a cut, including an extremely comic pastor who speaks such tongues as Rabbosh, AK47, Skelewu, Devil-Pullover, and Spartacus!

Filled with so many well thought-out twists, and a tactical handling of deep issues, it is difficult not to fall in love with this play. In the end, the schemers get schemed by their supposed ‘maga’, in spite of their exertions.
Ifeoma Fafunwa’s ‘Imagine Nigeria productions,’ gave an undoubtedly beautiful performance of the story which screenplay was done by Jude Idada. 

The open theater experience was a beautiful one for me, and this reviewer hopes that it will continue. “Double tuwaile” to the British Council, and all its partners for facilitating this awesome platform.
I hope that plays at the next festival will be accessible to larger audiences at a time (At possibly lower prices).

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