NEW LEASE OF LIFE IN ABUJA THEATRE
Who is afraid of Adams Oshiomhole? This is not a question that probes the might of the Edo State governor. It is, however, a question exploring the extent of his fury as the former comrade-leader of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
It is also the title of one of the two plays staged at StyleCom Ventures' maiden edition of the Style Arts and Culture Fiesta during the Guest Writer Session of the Abuja Writers Forum (AWF) in Merit House on October 29.
Written by the playwright, Godswill Okiyi, the play depicted the plight of workers and the insensitivities they face in the line of duty. A communications lecturer and advertising practitioner, Mr. Okiyi shared that he was inspired to write the play based on an office fire in Lagos where workers died in a plastic company around 2001.
The case was unresolved and justice was not served. 'This event informed my thinking and formed the nucleus for the play,' Mr. Okiyi said. His play, therefore, took a labour-activist approach with his cast's NLC chants of solidarity forever.
The founder of the AWF, Dr. Emman Shehu, was impressed by both plays: 'I've seen both scripts in their raw form. I am glad my observations were taken into consideration.'
Shehu also told Saturday Sun that featuring the plays in the October Guest Writer session showed the fusion of the various forms of literature. He went on to say that showcasing the plays was a good way of helping the playwrights with their creative process.
The event started hot with the first play, Prince Abiathar Zadok's Hell is a Woman, which ironically does not allude to the famous quote: 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.' Prince Zadok described his play as essentially a metaphor which focuses on the anomalies a society faces when control is in the wrong hands.
'All of us become women when we sit down and fold our arms when we should stand up and say a loud 'no' to the ills we see around,' he said. He added that the play's ironical nature shows the female protagonist, Peace, taking the place of a man and her lover, Bobby becomes worse than a wobbling ship at sea without a sense of direction. Prince Zadok stressed that 'the woman in the play is a symbolic reflection of a people, not a sex.'
Prior to the plays, the special guest of the event, the novelist, poet and playwright, Lady Gesiere Brisibe-Dorgu, incited writers in her speech on 'The Impact of Writers on Society'. She advised all writers to use to full advantage their right to freedom of expression in the constitution.
'Drama is one of the avenues through which this can be achieved,' she said. 'Creative persons have an obligation to share their knowledge and passion with the world. Their power of expression echoes the fears and aspirations of society. They are co-creators with the Supreme Creator,' she said.
Television presenter and ex-footballer, John Fashanu, was also part of enraptured audience that Saturday evening. Fashanu tagged along with the Edo State Commissioner of Arts, Culture and Tourism, Aanena Jemitola who stood in for the Edo State governor, Comrade Oshiomhole. Albeit it being his first time attending the AWF Guest Writer session, Mr. Fashanu was doubly excited and 'loved' the execution of both scripts.
Commenting on the current state of the Nigerian theatre, Mr. Shehu admitted that in terms of stage plays and not film production, the sector faces a lot of challenges, particularly finance: 'Unfortunately, we live in a society with misplaced priorities.'
Prince Zadok also echoed similar sentiments on the condition of the Nigerian theatre: 'The theatre in Nigeria like many other areas is plagued with principally funding problems.' He pointed out that Nigeria has wonderful playwrights, great actors and actresses, and numerous resources to draw from. He further asserted that if the government is serious about alleviating the scourge of unemployment and its related vices, the theatre is one area it should encourage to develop both for its tourism potential and intellectual engagements.
'Theatre is much more tasking,' Mr. Okiyi elaborated. 'The Nigerian theatre used to be endangered, but the sprouting of collectives and the collaboration with film are now aiding its growth.' Notwithstanding the newfound alliance between theatre and film, Okiyi emphasizes that there are no similarities in style between Nollywood and the Nigerian theatre. 'More thinking goes into the play,' he said. 'Nollywood is just plastic art.'
On the other hand, Prince Zadok told Saturday Sun that drama and film are like 'a couple of a Christian marriage; hardly divorceable.'
The event was put together by StyleCom Ventures, in collaboration with AWF and its scholastic goals. AWF is committed to promoting a vibrant literary culture and making literature a pleasure. The Guest Writer sessions are held in Abuja every last Saturday of the month. In its efforts to encourage creative writing potentials within Nigeria and Africa, it also hosts creative writing workshops, which have featured notable literary icons such as Helon Habila, Toyin Adewale-Gabriel and the internationally acclaimed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Resounding the notes of hope, Prince Zadok pointed out that, though the Nigerian theatre has been in the doldrums and has only been active in the academic arena for scholarly reasons, he is glad and appreciates that an outfit like Style Com Ventures has taken it upon itself to promote publications and stage production of plays. 'With more events like this one, the theatre will surely be on course for revival.'