Five Stage Plays We Absolutely Loved in 2018
Theatre in Nigeria has certainly gained more attention with festivals like Lagos Theatre Festival and more recently, Lagos Fringe Festival, promoting indigenous plays. 2018 was an exciting year for the local scene. There were numerous shows throughout the year but a few caught our attention the most, and not just because they had sold out halls, received positive reviews and international recognition, but because they thoroughly entertained us, from storyline, to cast and acting. We present to you, 5 of our best.
Fela and the Kalakuta Queens
We would be amiss if we did not include this on our list. Fela and the Kalakuta Queens was one of the most exciting shows to hit the Lagos theatre scene this year. The play was quite the crowd pleaser, with an amazing production and cast. According to the producer and artistic director, Bolanle Austen-Peters, the show was inspired by the desire to know how Fela’s women (the Kalakuta Queens) fared after his demise. The play centred around the Kalakuta Queens and their lives with Fela in the Kalakuta Republic. One thing that stood out throughout the play was the ladies’ allegiance to their king, Fela. They were willing to go to any lengths for him, even at the cost of their families and their lives.
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives
Director Femi Elufowoju Jr conjures a vibrant lyrical production, staged in the round with minimal props. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is based on Lola Shoneyin’s bestselling 2011 novel by the same name. The play is set in modern-day Nigeria, where tribal custom and witchcraft are balanced against Christianity and science. It is a story of sexual envy among the wives and of shifting power play in a polygamous household. When the youngest and most educated wife, Bolanle (played by former Moments with Mo host Marcy Dolapo Oni), enters the scene, the other three wives plot murderous schemes against her. The play captures complicated gender dynamics, rampant misogyny, occasional misandry, and the subversive power wielded in the household. A review in The Guardian sums it up nicely: “The play’s energy never dips, and the actors, playing multiple roles, give nuanced, charismatic performances. The effect is nothing short of spectacular.”
Sankara is a story of vision, faith, patriotism, treachery, and one man’s indefatigable love for his country and continent. The play reveals how Thomas Sankara transformed his country, Burkina Faso, from a land of deprivation into a bustling, self-reliant economy in just four years. Through the force of his will, vision, courage, and integrity, Sankara led his country into a cultural and social renaissance. To symbolize this rebirth, he changed the country’s colonial name, Upper Volta, to Burkina Faso (meaning Land of Upright Men) and personally wrote its new anthem. With Sankara, notable storyteller Jude Idada joins the conversation on Nigeria’s search for the right leadership. The play was staged at the Shell Hall of the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos. It received overwhelmingly positive feedback.
Directed by Nwando Alayande, The Confab is a satirical play about Nigeria laced with witty dialogue. The story tells of delegates from the various geopolitical zones of the country who gather at the Confab with the sole aim of sharing the metaphorical national cake. Produced by Mabykay Productions, this play is a bold attempt to examine governance and politics. According to Alayande, she wanted her production to effect lasting change in governance.
Queen Moremi the Musical
We saved the best for last. A recent creation of Bolanle Austen-Peters Productions, Queen Moremi the Musical, is based on the true life story of Queen Moremi, daughter to one of Ife’s bravest hunter-warriors, Lukugba, and Princess Olunbe of Offa. Moremi was raised to question injustice and stand up for the oppressed no matter who they were or where they came from. Through music and dance, the play brings to life the rich and colourful ancestral Yoruba heritage.
The show featured both seasoned and upcoming actors including Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde Bimbo Manuel, Bambam, Femi Branch, Deyemi Okanlawon, Ayo Ayoola, and Kehinde Bankole. According to Bolanle Austen-Peters, the purpose and aim of this project is to keep our identity, values, history, and culture alive, especially among the youth, starting from within Nigeria and progressing on to those in the Diaspora.
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