Monday, January 26, 2009

Modest proposals on sale of National Theatre
By ’Lasunkanmi Bolarinwa(As published in The Guardian Wednesday 15/8/07)

IN the wake of President Umaru Yar’adua’s assumption into office, virtually everything standing in Nigeria had been sold. Nothing was sacred. Those that were yet to be sold were counting their days. As a matter of historical fact, so obsessed was Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo with the urge to sell at no cost, or is it at all cost, that just as he was waving farewell at Nigerians with one hand, he was, with the other hand counting proceeds from the sale of two of our refineries. He was not just the President, he was the auctioneer. He sold buildings; sold the roads leading to them, sold the furnishings and mortgaged the domestic servants and their families. Such was the reign of the auctioneer who also was the president. We do not know yet if his successor would be – Auctioneer The Second.

If you are an avid follower of privatisation and commercialisation reform package of our government, you would know that as you read this, the National Theatre might have been sold. Do not mind all the hues and cries by stake holders in the industry. You agree with me that if the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to have its way, all those who call themselves stakeholders in the industry and use their stakes to hold back and derail policies of government would be tied to the stake and shot. Simple! Stakeholders to the stakes! Stakeholders my foot! It is therefore the matter of the sale of the National Theatre that prompts me into this intervention.Those who know me would testify that I am not very good at the business of buying and selling. But that is not to say, I am not entitled to my fair share of clairvoyant thinking; especially when I set my mind to it over a long period of time. I may claim to be a genius, a claim that I cannot prove except when I am in the beer parlour, but sometimes in a moment of flashing divine intervention, I am capable of some quasi ingenious ruminations. So give it to me, I have stumbled, No! found the perfect proposal to apply to the spate of selling going on in the land.

With all proposals, you should know that there must be a background. This, among other things would make us understand the problem statement better and then to appreciate fully the strength of the proposed solution. This is the background I proffer.Let us face it, No matter how stark and ugly it may be. We come from a long tradition of buyers and sellers. Simple. A substantial part of the history of the African continent is that of buying and selling. There was nothing we did not sell. We sold our labour. We sold our intelligence. We even sold ourselves. Yes, we sold our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. We sold our artifacts and traded our culture in. And in each of these cases, what we get in return did not matter. Salt? Rum? Money? Mirrors? Slavery? Colonisation? Deprivation? Anything. Just provide an opportunity to sell and…. Gbam! We are ready to play ball. We must however put the texture and component of this trade in perspective. A major point of note here is that it is usually the powerful who capture and sell the weak and all they have. It is the haves who sell the have nots. It is the rulers who sold their subjects. Ironically, the rulers and the powerful also sold themselves into perdition. But before they knew this, it was too late. Maybe at a latter date, interested anthropologists would conduct studies into the nature of this trading bug that is eating into the African system.

If that glimpse into the past does not help you, what about the instances of how properties, houses, were sold – and are still being sold - off their owners heads by sellers who did not own the house and who knew next to nothing about the house and to buyers who were too greedy to find out the authentic owners of the houses? The emergence of billboards and graffiti on actively inhabited houses saying This House Is Not For Sale, Buyers Beware is one of the recent indications of our penchant to sell everything and anything, ownership not withstanding. So, without any attempt at being mischievously euphemistic, I put it to you that we are a very enterprising people. Take it as a compliment or take it with a pinch of salt. I cannot be bothered. I have stated a fact provable empirically.

It is strange therefore that those who claim to be stakeholders in the art and culture industry have done very little to show an understanding of the culture they are stake holding. They have therefore embarked on this huge protest calling attention to their ignorance about the imperative of selling. They have forgotten that there is no power in the world, no matter how great, that can stop a buyer from buying from a willing seller when it is in their blood to trade at all cost. I know for certain that this is one major reason why government and their partners in trading would not listen to them and that is why I have taken it upon myself to make the following proposal; modest as it may seem, I hope it will show all parties concerned the path of reason.

Why can we not just sell the National Theatre and throw a huge party? What is it doing for us now that we will miss if it is gone? Have other structures not been sold before the National theatre? Who cried foul then? What the hell (don’t mind my French) does it matter if we do not leave anything for generations to come? Can they not fend for themselves? Who says they (future generation) are not going to sell it off anyway? So, why wait for them if we can do it right away?We cannot begin now to ask questions of whether or not government has been meeting its obligations to the upkeep of the structure of the place over the years because this is a land where such sensible questions are expected only from officially certified idiots. So, why bother ask? We see things differently. So, our reactions and attitudes to issues are different. Our definition of government, governance, leadership and followership among others are at cross purposes. To these other people at the other side of the divide of reason what is culture? It is that piece of entertainment you have on the airport tarmac when visitors come flying in. It is the assemblage of young pretty women and men costumed in traditional attires doing exotic dances to the delight of official human beings after dinner in the bouquet hall of a five star hotel. So, where is the place of the national theatre in all these art and culture business? The National Theatre is just a piece of property that can be put to better use by other sectors of the economy.If we know anything about the average Nigerian politician, it is that they know the value of money. They spend a lot of valuable time accumulating (another word for obtaining inappropriately or simply stealing by stealth) so much of it to be able to stand a chance to contest elections. They spend so much of it ensuring that the elections are rigged. When they get into office, so much of it is expended to ensure that they garner more. This is where we must begin to understand that, for an economy that is as practically grounded as ours, where are our esteemed politicians recoup money that will either serve as their severance package or that they will use for the next election campaign if there is nothing to sell? Those who say the National theatre should not be sold should go and sleep and come back when they have alternative suggestion of where to raise pocket money for our leaders from? Am I the only one who suspects that the government officials in charge of the building will make more money on the transaction if it goes through that if it does not?

Now that all the banks we have in the country are mega banks, it makes sense to imagine what wonders it will do to have all twenty five or so of them map out the sharing of spaces in the premises of the Theatre. In compliance with the drive to ensure that everything in Nigeria brings money in the name of economic reform, what is the sense in pretending to be protecting some cultural heritage? Just like some musician in the past said ‘grammar no be money’, so also is culture no be money.

I will not be one of those shortsighted people who believe this is about efficiency and effectiveness of a sector. For God’s sake, not even government is effective or efficient in this country and we have accepted that with all sense of humility. If you take privatisation, commercialisation and consolidation in the banking sector for instance, you will find out that, N25m or not, some of them can still not run efficient toilets in their various branches. They cannot present staff members who understand their place against that of costumers. Their branches cannot be found in other places apart from the capital in some states. They advertise internet banking but they cannot deliver on it. They are quick to tell you there is no network when you go for your money. They are quicker to tell you in Ilorin to go to your branch in Onitsha in order to cash your cheque as if it is your fault in the first place that their network is not working. Those that were efficient before the commercilaisation are still the ones leading in the ratings of the person on the street.

I also know of one or two companies that have been privatised in the last eight years but have refused to get any better, at least in my layperson’s perception. If you doubt me, check out what is happening to Daily Times Newspaper or whatever its proper name is. If that is not enough, ask the person next to you what has become of NEPA/PHCN transformation. Maybe they were not commercialised, they were merely ‘reformed’. However, whichever, way you see it, nothing, absolutely nothing, has improved in that parastatal. Although PHCN has not generated any additional megawatt of electricity yet, it is jerking up its tariff at will. That is the way of Nigeria!Yes, other countries, more economically advanced countries of the world, protect their own cultural heritage no matter how fluid it might be in the face of changing economic realities and the challenges of coping with imperialism. What is most interesting is that they are not just interested in their own culture, they are also interested in studying other people’s culture too.

Take the example of the French people who even have a cultural centre in Nigeria! Maybe you can forgive the British for having their Council here in Nigeria. This is a commonwealth nation. They colonised us and the link tends to be stronger. But what about the French and the Germans? Talk of cases of classical busy bodies! Give it to these cultural outposts, some of them have done more for the promotion and positioning of the Nigerian art and culture than some of the people who are clamouring for the sale or concession of the National Theatre now have ever done in their collective history either as people in government or as people in the corporate world. While those who lead in global economic reforms are exporting their culture and promoting other countries’, we are in an annihilative mood under the guise of progress and reforms. But then we all have headaches differently. One man’s poison is after all another man’s breakfast.

In the recent past, those who drive against the flow of traffic in Lagos State were arrested and taken to psychiatric homes for medical examination. The basis for this was that there must be something wrong with your mental state for you to do things contrary to good reason and constitutionality. I think it worked while it was being implemented. But, as usual, instead of improving on it, we have since abandoned it. By now, all the drivers of bullion vans who blow illegal siren would have been put in their places, including big lawyers who think that by quoting the law a lot they have become the constitution. That is the way of our land. In a similar vein, I am not sure if it followed from the Lagos state case, somebody suggested that our political leaders should have their heads examined before confirming their eligibility for elections. Simply put. This would mean that as they publicly declare their economic assets, they are also expected to present a certificate of a clean bill of mental health. We ignored this suggestion. This selling spree is one of the consequences of such lack of attention to important details.

Nigeria is one of the biggest countries in Africa and it is also one of the most, if not the leading irresponsible state. Unfortunately, irresponsibility is a trait that cannot be traded in. Otherwise, I would suggest the outright sale of the Nigerian Armed Forces, as one of the most backward, reactionary, anti progressive institutions in the polity. I would suggest a plan to do a hundred year concession of the National Houses of Assemblies because, in spite of huge investments in time, money and trust, they have achieved only one thing; the grand incapability to serve the ordinary people of Nigeria.It was over a couple of drinks that my friend and I stumbled on this novel idea of trading off leaders like football clubs, especially in Europe and the English Premiership, trade off players. Open a transfer window as they say and shop for the brightest leaders in the market. You can imagine the pleasure of loaning Obasanjo to the Americans and buying Tony Blair back from retirement? We can simply sack our national assemblies and go shopping for replacements in France, Italy and even the United Nations. That way, we would not have to be saddled with all these unproductive elected officers who give the effect of a bad bench and pitch combined. In a way, football seem to be more business like than governance and it is part of my modest proposal that we include ideas such as this in our reform package for the current dispensation. I can bet my better eye that the United Nations would, for this, acknowledge our contribution to world politics.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot ignore some of the age old sayings of our ancestors. They are just too apt. In certain circumstances they say that people who refuse to acknowledge the praise of their lineage in public would most probably take to their heels if they stumble on their father being beaten up in a remote corner. How else do you begin to understand people with little value for that which should matter most to their lives? Sometimes, it is the mere act of suggestion of an idea that implies the rationale of the maker of the suggestion.

To mute the idea of selling, loaning or concessioning the National Theatre is a clear symptom of a peculiar type of thinking that one should be wary of.It is for all these reasons and more that you and I know of but which we would not talk about here that I humbly propose that we sell the National Theatre as quickly as possible and go on with our business as usual. My proposal is a modest one. Just like my ambition in life too. I have no illussion about leaders who lack the foresight required of visionaries. Long live Nigeria!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Who is afraid of Wale Macaulay as Kurunmi? By Mufu Onifade

Who is afraid of Wale Macaulay as Kurunmi?
By Mufu Onifade

WHO is afraid of Wale Macaulay? The rave of the moment as the year 2008 bade farewell on Wednesday was the 5-star command performance by the National Troupe of Nigeria. It was a stage show of Kurunmi, a tragic play written by the late professor Ola Rotimi and directed by the ever-current and consistent Ben Tomoloju. It was a show that re-polished professional image of the National Troupe. Kurunmi was outstanding in every department: acting, dancing, music and miming. The usual Tomoloju magic wand struck a positive lightening in all, and the cobweb was woven around an exhaustively outstanding actor, Wale Macaulay.

Who is afraid of Wale Macaulay? Kurunmi is a story of absolute power that intoxicates absolutely, deposited in a generalissimo. It is a story of high-powered politicking. It is a story of deviance with the intent of upholding the tradition against common sense. It is a story of intrigues and strategy, filled with suspense and awe-inspiring drama. It is a story that forcefully enforces a change and further compels the resisting force to kiss the dust by force. In the end, Kurunmi, the all-powerful generalissimo of the entire Yoruba race is turned into a lifeless effigy whose emotional and spiritual well-being become permanently retarded. It is a story that forcefully steals away the existing peace from Ijaye in order to embrace the change of an age-long tradition in Oyo. The story is well told on stage, but who is afraid of Wale Macaulay?
All actors, drummers, dancers and singers in the play can easily enjoy a genuine display of thumb-up, for a job well-executed, but Wale Macaulay's role, his apt interpretation of the Kurunmi character, his energetic resistance to pressure and his proven ability as a theatre rat whose professional career began on stage must be placed on a pedestal of high praises. His gait, his gauntlet, his diction, his audibility, his carriage, his charisma and natural smoothness on stage could not but exhume the reputation of the National Troupe from its state of oscillation between known professionalism and strange mediocrity.

Unfortunately, Professor Ahmed Yerima, the director-general of the National Theatre/National Troupe of Nigeria was conspicuously absent from the command performance staged on Sunday, December 28, 2008 at the Cinema Hall 2 of the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. He missed a rare show of great potential and redefined professionalism woven by Ben Tomoloju and delivered by Wale Macaulay. Yerima missed the visible difference between the traditional interpretation of Kurunmi invented by the late Laide Adewale and the new breed of fresh invention, Wale Macaulay. He missed the opportunity of receiving all those notable chiefs who came to grace the show all the way from Ijaye, Egba and Abeokuta. So was his assistant, Arnold Udoka but as the parlance in the theatre is often echoed: the show must go on, and on it went; and successfully, too. The lead actor miraculously dumped his audience into a deep trench of emotion, but who is afraid of Wale Macaulay?

There is no denying the fact that every actor on stage, Phillip Okolo, Osagie Oyedigun, Ropo Ewenla, Soibifa Dokubo, Yemi Adeyemi, Kehinde Fasuyi, Lola Kazeem, Awele Onuora and a host of others performed excellently to compliment Macaulay's role. However, the London-trained actor's eventual 5-star performance did not easily emerge on the dining table like bread and butter. There were plots, underground power play and secretive manipulation to un-robe him of the role. Who was afraid of Wale Macaulay? Who was afraid of his artistic mien and characteristic domination on stage? Who was afraid of his possible stage interpretation of any role by this screen mini-god? Prior to the play, the Kurunmi camp was divided into two. On one side was the popular Abe Igi caucus who saw the role of Kurunmi as the birthright of the caucus. With a wide consultation within, the caucus had presented a credible candidate that was perceived powerful enough to upstage Wale Macaulay. The other camp comprised those passive individuals who cared less about who played what role. To them, anybody could play Kurunmi as long as he was capable of delivering the goods. In the middle of the two groups was the arbiter, the director of the play, Ben Tomoloju who was bent on presenting a cosmopolitan Kurunmi which Macaulay represents. Apart from being a respected playwright, Ben is also an accomplished director, songwriter, singer and many more. In truth, he is not a push-over in directing. He has handled many classics in the past and had just risen from directing one of his plays, Jankariwo whose performances ended recently in controversy, to take up Kurunmi. The controversy had nothing to do with the artistic management of the play, and so, Tomoloju was easily absolved.

In Kurunmi, he was not ready to yield to any pressure to dump one actor for another. He would rather follow his heart, which told him to depart from the deep-rooted local rendition of the past to embrace the current wind of change. As a matter of fact, he acted as if he was unaware of the existence of the two camps. Of the lots, however, only Wale Macaulay fitted in, perfectly for Tomoloju's radical approach to modern day theatre directing. First, Tomoloju, who belonged to a gradually fading generation proved that he was different. He is certainly a director in embrace of constant research, and that informed his current vision and recurrent adaptation to modern tendencies in theatre performance. In the end, in spite of the plots to unseat him, Wale Macaulay who claims to have shed tears the first time he read the play, succeeded in translating his director's vision into the audience's delight, but the question still rages: who is afraid of Wale Macaulay?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

'Kurunmi, a Refresher Course for Me'

The play, Kurunmi, was staged by the National Troupe of Nigeria at the National Theatre, Lagos, during the festive period. Ola. Sunkanmi writes on one of the dramatis personae behind the play, Wale Macauley, who played the role of Kurunmi.

ON Sunday, December 22, 2008, the last play on the bill of the National Theatre/National Trope of Nigeria opened to the audience. It ran all through Christmas till the first day of the New Year. The play is none other than Ola Rotimi’s Kurunmi. Acclaimed as one of the best in the Nigerian dramatic repertoire, the play production whose rehearsals started six weeks before opening, has been generating quite a buzz in the arts sector and the reasons for this are many.

Apart from being reputed as one of the best from Ola Rotimi, it has the passion of the connectivity of history, especially with the Yoruba people. It is directed by Ben Tomoloju, also acclaimed as one of the most imaginative interpreters on the Nigerian stage. It is, indisputably, the biggest thing the National Troupe has handled in a long time. The play is critical in the historical tragedy of the city/state formation of the Oyo kingdom as it diffuses its power to younger but more vibrant formations. It is a classical tragedy of one man against the rest of the people. It is the tragedy of one person who brings untold hardship, pain and death on his people for what he calls the defence of tradition.

The person is Kurunmi, the then Aare Ona Kakanfo of the entire Yoruba kingdom and the person playing the role is Wale Macaulay.If you do not know the name, you will perhaps know the face when you see it, except that from play to play, and from roles to roles, his face has been taking different looks and shapes all in the name of making an attempt to reflect the specific character he is playing. There have been times when he was clean-shaven with a Samanja-like moustache. There were times when he had quite a heavy load of beards and a complimenting share on his head. Right now, he is on low cut with a spot of natural make up fluffs of whites on his beards which almost make the job of the make-up artiste team in Kurunmi half done. His voice, which you could say has been conditioned by television acting, is a rich outflow of rhythmical waves that the lover of good art cannot but love. Wale Macaulay is a versatile artiste. Educated in Nigeria and England, he is an actor, poet, director, and playwright. His works on stage and screen have drawn critical acclaim locally and internationally; Prominent among his performances on stage are the plays Ola Rotimi’s The Gods are not to blame and Femi Osofisan’s Twingle Twangle. On screen, he is better known for remarkable roles in Amaka Igwe’s popular film, Violated, Tunde Kelani’s celebrated Thunderbolt and O leku, and the MNET hit cable television series, Doctor’s Quarters. Others are national television drama credits which read like a list of virtually all the hit series in the past twenty-five years – from National Television Authority’s (NTA) Play of the week series through Mirror in the sun, Third Eye, The Charly Boy Show and Family Ties to Superstory and Everyday People. Recently he’s been engaged as a content director on the famed Big Brother (Nigeria) project and was also the Big Brother voice. A songwriter too, his more successful songs include Ti o basi ti oluwa ni delivered by Grammy Awards nominee, King Sunny Ade and Lucifer performed by popular reggae artiste, Ras Kimono. He is married and lives on Snake Island, Lagos.The last time he was actually seen on live theatre stage was in 2005 as Professor on Femi Osofisan’s Twingle Twangle a Twinning Tayle, which staged in Abuja during COJA. So you would be right to label him a television actor.

Well, he did not quite disagree but he worked out his answer on an economic template. He says the remuneration on stage is hardly enough for him to take care of his transportation during rehearsals not to talk of feeding himself or taking care of other personal sundry expenses. Besides, according to him, artistes also have families to take care of. Enslaving oneself to the form of the stage may therefore mean starvation.Another thing is that while he insists that the movies pay more than the stage, he has not been seen in too many films. His explanation is that since he is responsible for all the choices he makes in life and would not want to blame anybody for the consequences of such actions, he likes to go through a script first in order to find out if the quality meets his taste. Says he, ‘I haven’t really been happy with the state of the stage in Nigeria. You cannot expect one to work as hard as one does on stage and live on the pittance offered. Aside from your person, you also have a family you have to take care of. You have needs you have to meet. So, if another genre of arts can take care of my bills, I don’t see anything wrong in that and that is why I actually salute Ben T. for him to have so much believe in me in spite of my perception as an essential television actor is an act of bravery I salute.’

He would also be careful in choosing the director he would work with. This way, the options of films to act in are not much for him. But he is sure that the few ones he has done would stand the test of time. He says, ‘ in our line of job, you are as good as your last job’. I guess this is why he makes sure the last job people can remember him by are the few good ones he does.He declares ‘I could do a film a year. I write as well’.

Yes, he writes too. On record he has The Rape of Gidiolu published in 2005 to his credit. But since then he has not come out with any other thing. Rape of Gidiolu was in the film genre too a year before it was published in book form. It starred: Femi Branch, William Benson and Adebayo M. Liadi among others. Apart from being the writer, Wale Macaulay also directed it. Not only that, he also composed the title music. Produced by his outfit, Kazimba Productions, of which not much has been heard in recent times, the film ran for ninety minutes. This film was recorded during the premiere stage performance of the Rape of Gidiolu at Shell Hall, Muson Centre, Lagos, Nigeria, on 4 June 2005. This event was sponsored by the Herbert Macaulay Leadership Institute. It was screened at the biennial International Council Meeting (ICM) of Amnesty International in Mexico on 19 August 2005. The ICM is attended by 450 delegates from all over the world. The film was screened alongside international successes like ‘Hotel Rwanda’, ‘Voces Inocentes’ (Innocent Voices) and other films with important human rights messages, such as ‘Seoul Train’ and ‘Child Soldiers’, and, though very well received in certain international circuits, is yet largely unknown and unheard of here at home.

Why then is he here on the set of Kurunmi? Is the remuneration in this particular case any better? Do not go there he says. He insists that as in other cases of stage productions, this one even though it is by the National Troupe of Nigeria is not much different financially. He reveals that when he removes his cost of transportation from the total package, the rest is nothing to write home about. But then, he had always wanted to work with Ben Tomoloju. This would be the first time the two of them would be working together. He sees him as one of the directors an actor like him can learn something from. While he had been auditioned a number of times by the National Troupe, this however, would be the first time he would be picked for any job with them. Given the circumstances surrounding the current job, he says ‘This is actually a refresher course for me. It is a good thing to come back to the source once in a while for some mental and intellectual boost. And the source for me actually, is the theatre because this is where it all started with me and for me’.

On his interaction with the character and script of Kurunmi, this is what he has to say, ‘This is one of the very few scripts that really touch me and sometimes at the beginning; I got really emotional about some scenes. It seems in the history of Africa, people with causes we kill them….Kurunmi as a character is larger than life, but what I saw in the handling of the material is that Ben T. (the director) shows the totality of the character. You will see Kurunmi laughing, romantic, wild and cowed. It is total’.

Asked, how soon are we to expect any new thing from him after this Christmas/New Year gift, he replies, ‘I want to take a rest’. You might also want to take a rest after six grueling weeks of rehearsals and twelve performances as Kurunmi.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Kurunmi - a Play in Season of Cholera

Kurunmi - a Play in Season of Cholera
McPhilips Nwachukwu
25 December 2008

Currently showing at the National Theatre of Nigeria, Lagos is one of late Professor Ola Rotimi's most important plays, Kurunmi. The play, which was written about 1966 as a dramatic response to the tragic 30 months civil war between Nigeria and secessionist Biafran republic was historically first brought on stage in 1969 with famous scientist, Dr. Akin Sofoluwe playing Kurumni.Coming on stage again , 49 years after its first stage performance under the directorship of frontline theatre artist, playwright and culture pathologist, Ben Tomoloju, the 45 member cast historical drama is being re-interpreted to fit into the light of contemporary experiences.

Originally scripted to dramatically explore the internecine conflict between the Ijaye and their Ibadan cousins of Old Oyo empire, the playwright, Rotimi using the characters of Kurumni and Alaafin of Oyo explores the absolute corrupt tendencies of power.
Fortuitously, Rotomi's Kurumni has enjoyed the hindsight of history as it came in to sphere at a moment the Chinese describe as " interesting times" interesting in the sense that it appears when the debate of secession was hot: when the Biafran side led by the Igbo of Eastern Nigeria wanted to break away from the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Each time the play has come on stage, it has succeeded in playing out the whole intrigues epitomized in the leading figure of Aare Kakanfo; the War General, Kurunmi, who represents the conservative stock of power players in governance, the sit tight attitude epitomized in the person of Alafin of Oyo, who wishes to succeed himself in power with the installation of his son contrary to cultural dictates( constitutional provisions), and the betrayal of brotherhood and trust displayed by the Egbas.

Coming out this time again, as the last play offering to conclude the National Theatre/ National Troupe of Nigeria 2008 play season, Kurunmi , also plays into the hands of history as the nation has just witnessed another blood birth in the once upon a time peaceful city of Plateau State in the North Central part of Nigeria.

The Jos crises , which unconfirmed sources put its death toll at 400 is said to have been caused by a clash between indigenous people and the Hausa- Fulani settlers, over perhaps, who is to control the power apparatus of the place.

While the crises in the Plateau may not directly be about succession, it however directly speaks on the corruptive tendencies of absolute power display. As people troop to the theatre this season to watch this well crafted and properly interpreted drama, there is no doubt, that they will be drawn into the cathartic influence effusing fresh from the sad and injured history of the nation's deformed polity.

Realizing Rotimi's dramatic vision on stage is not a simple task. For instance , his use of large cast, a phenomenon that was frontally queried by such critics like Uli Beier was a task before any director engaged with the task of directing Rotimi's plays.

But beautifully, Tomoloju, the director of the present show has scored well in this area like in other areas of the theatrical production by trimming the large cast to sizeable crowd of 45 players. According to him; " We know the mind of the master."
Beside good management of cast, the entire packaging of the show captures the dramatic vision of the late playwright, who had always envisioned a complete African dramatic sensibilities in his dramaturgy.

The play is richly endowed with a total African theatrical aesthetics that manifest in the form of beautifully arranged music, costumes and linguistic power.

In the present show, Kurunmi is being played by well known actor, Wale Macaulay, who stars on stage along side other tested actors that include: Philip Okolo, Albert Akaeze, Ropo Ewenla, Victor Oyadeji, Hadji Bello and Dokubo.

Kurunmi Rehearsals

Kurunmi Rehearsals
By Obidike Okafor/NEXT
January 1, 2009 10:37PMT
- When performers gather on a stage, barefoot, wearing modern day clothes to act a seventeenth century play, one begins to wonder about the contrast. Then you realise it's not lights, camera and action. It's the rehearsal for Kurunmi, a play by the National Troupe of Nigeria in collaboration with the National Theatre, which will run from December 22nd to January 2nd 2008 at Cinema Hall 2 of the National Theatre.
On entering the hall for the rehearsals, clothes and bags were scattered on the seats. Some of the performers who were not on the stage acting either lay on the floor getting some rest before their scenes or sat down to get the lines right. On stage, between red and black curtains, gesticulations and loud voices fill the vacuum caused by the many empty seats, as they performed for the audience of one the guest directors, Mr Ben Tomoloju. The director, an experienced dramatist and journalist, watched with keen interest the actions on the stage from different seats in the theatre, interrupting the actions on stage when it was necessary.
He sometimes had to demonstrate what the performer should do to make it interesting to the audience and attractive on camera. Even the blackouts did not stop the rehearsal. The choreographed scenes and Yoruba songs were accompanied by drummers who did not escape the director's eyes; the director noticed when the drummers went off beat and when the drums were meant to stop, and didn't. The performers had the opportunity to use props for the play to help them get into their roles.
Mrs kehinde Fasuyi, who has been a stage performer for over 23 years, and also recently has appeared on a TV series (the drama Super Story) said "Kurunmi is an epic play that shows when the traditions of Yoruba began to degenerate." Another actor, David Uba, who started acting professionally in 2006, said "lessons from Kurumi are relevant for today's leaders." Oladele Akinseye, who takes the part of a warrior in the play, had to put his musical production on hold to work with Mr Tomoloju.
"Kurumi was about the truth, tradition had been flouted," he said.Kurunmi was written by Ola Rotimi and has elements that make the play a complete experience: songs that give the play its melodic face, proverbs that add weight to the words in the play ("The philosophy of a frog is the philosophy of life," "It takes a monkey to see the ugliness in the buttocks of a fellow monkey," etc.); courage and humour complete the play. Are Ona Kakanfo Kurunmi is a stickler to tradition. And when the wind of change came did he stand? That is the question that the drama answers.

Wale Macaulay (Kurunmi), Ropo Ewenla (Ogunmola), Gogo Ombo Gogo (Are Agoro Ajayi), Philip Okolo (Balogun Ogukorooju), Osagie Okedigun (Abogunrin), Ife Salako (Seriki Jegede/Blaogun Anoba/Ijaye Christian Convert) and Yemi Adeyemi (Kujenyo) are some of the seasoned performers in the play.

Music, literature in 'An evening with the future

Cornerstone in the centrestage
Music, literature in 'An evening with the future
updated: Tuesday 01-12-2008re'

Ola Sunkanmi was at a reception held in honour of some literary icons in the ancient city of Ibadan. He reports how the event, which included performances by poets, folklore singers, etc, went.

Aptly tagged “An Evening with the Future”, perhaps no other caption could have captured the ambience and spirit of a recent literary gathering in the city of Ibadan. Organised by Optimum
Arts Communications, the event was not just another gathering of writers and literary enthusiasts but equally a platform to unveil a whole array of exciting talents. “An Evening with the Future”, which held at the premises of the Information Aids Network (Ifanet), Bodija, Ibadan, was a literary reception for two burgeoning literary icons, Ifeanyi Avajah and Rotimi Babatunde. Ifeanyi Avajah, a poet, playwright and notable career juggler, recently reneged in his devotion as a committed bachelor by leading his heartthrob, Ada, a pretty banker to the altar; Rotimi Babatunde, on the other hand, is being celebrated on account of his play “The Bonfire of the Innocents” which is on the national tour of Sweden.

The trio of rising musical stars, Awoko, Edaoto, and Cornerstone, set the tone for the evening with a remarkable opening performance which left the audience speechless with sonic delight. Thereafter, it was a medley of music, poetry, dance and assorted performances. Iquo Eke, author of My Breast Tells a Story, gave a scintillating performance of Ifeanyi Avajah’s poem “My Dear Friends” before proceeding to crown her presentation with two poems of her own, including “I am a Woman” which turned out to be an ear-seducing thriller.

Apart from the excerpt from Rotimi Babatunde’s play (translated in Swedish as “Eldoppet”) which was dramatised by the duo of Kunle Bayere and Yele Olaseinde, another excerpt from Kunle Okesipe’s intertextual drama adaptation, Professor’s Last Death, was also performed. Perhaps the most pleasant revelation of the evening was Iwalewa Olorunyomi, the nine-year old daughter of the host, Dr. Sola Olorunyomi, himself a certified talent collector, eclectic exegete and performance studies authority. Iwalewa read a lengthy excerpt from Igbesi Aye Okonkwo, Wale Ogunyemi’s translation of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, in a faultless Yoruba that was not only bewitching to the ear but a testimony to the reader’s precocious aesthetic consciousness. The reading drew from the audience a shower of involuntary applause.

As the evening wore on, readings, especially from the members of the Iroke Group, to which both Rotimi Babatunde and Ifeanyi Avajah belonged, dovetailed into musical interludes to create a seamless aesthetic fabric. Earlier in the programme, while introducing the Iroke Group and presenting Dr. Olorunyomi’s co-authored book, Duro Ladipo: Thunder-God on Stage, Ayo Adeduntan, an Iroke member and a PhD student at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, had said that the nucleus of the gathering was a product of a literary ferment that would soon assert its voice in the Nigerian literary landscape. Another close associate of the group, Lanre Ogunkola, a computer analyst who designed the Yoruba keyboard, spoke in the same vein.

Commenting on the programme, Ropo Ewenla, the literary aficionado and Project Manager, Optimum Arts Communications, described it as worthy, timely and remarkable. He opined that Ifeanyi Avajah who had been variously anthologised as a writer and who as a painter, had exhibited with the likes of Kelechi Amadi and Sam Ovraitti, deserved the reception. Rotimi Babatunde, he argued, had since 1999, been shortlisted for various international prizes, winning some in the process. His play, which is on the national tour of Sweden, he added, is a testimony to his industry. The vision of Optimum Arts Communications in honouring the duo, he concluded, is a mere tokenist gesture disproportionate to the magnitude of talents on display.Another author, Akin Bello, shared the same view, but added that actors in the arts generally got less than they deserved from the society.

The poetic atmosphere later climaxed into the poetry of songs, dance and freestyle literary disputations as the event glided into the informal session with Cornerstone, Edaoto, Awoko and Yele supplying the music. Palmwine, the official drink of the event, made the evening light.