By Prisca Sam-Duru
Last week’s enactment of one of Nigeria’s famous literature, Things Fall Apart written by world acclaimed literary Giant, Professor Chinua Achebe, at the Agip Recital Hall of the Muson Centre, Onikan Lagos, by Pupils and Students of The Childville Schools Ogudu GRA Lagos, indeed highlighted the beauty of Stage Plays.
The book, Things Fall Apart which was adapted for stage by the drama and dance teacher of the school, Gboyega Jerome brought back memories of how the Igbo society which was known for unity in every aspect of life was torn apart by the infiltration of the White men who came in as missionaries, traders and administrators.
To say that the young actors and actresses consisting of secondary, nursery, primary and even toddlers who felt comfortable at the backs of their mothers at the village square during meetings, did justice to Things Fall Apart would amount to an understatement.
The Children were simply amazing. Never has Achebe’s book been staged in such a stunning and appealing form more so, by children. Their superb performance which attracted cheers from the guests is a firm indication that stage play may never be replaced by the screen as feared by theatre lovers.
Beginning from the performance of the theme song, “Things Fall Apart, the centre cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”, to Chinasa Esiaba the little town crier’s acting and down to the very last act, it was a display of excellence.
Master Adura Olawuyi (Okonkwo) the chief character, who gave the most outstanding display of professionalism, though hails from western part of the country, never fluffed or missed a line while making long speeches amidst demonstrations as a fearless and passionate warrior, but maintained his character as a reliable representative of his kinsmen.
His eloquence and brilliant acting quickly endeared him to the excited audience. Nollywood surely needs child-actors like 13 year old Adura but it was rather disappointing to hear him say, “my teachers have made me discover that I have the talent to act but I do not want to be an actor, I want to study medicine”
The performance by others, Tokunbo Meghoma, (Ojiugo), Agonoga Shuaib( the masquerade and district commissioner), Ikechukwu Okolo( Ikemefuna), Ayomikun Akintola (chief), Toluwani Oyetunde(Ezinmma/dancer), Ugwum Agu(Unoka’s voice), Sogofunmi Ogunwale(Ekwefi) etc, all spoke eloquently of weeks of rehearsals as they delivered their lines without stage fright.
The costumes and make ups were complete, and appeared even more professional than most of what one sees in home videos. The props as well, masterfully accessorised the set and depicted a near perfect village setting.
As tragic as Achebe’s book is, humour constantly found a place in the act as the audience wasted no time in responding with laughter and thunderous applause. The mood in the capacity filled hall however turned solemn when Okonkwo drew his cutlass and killed Ikemefuna. The crowd sympathetically, joined him in his grief, momentarily forgetting it was all a play.
It however took the impressive exotic dance steps of the beautifully adorned Atilogu dancers to bring back the initial excitement in the audience. At this point, People got carried away as they defied the instruction given at the commencement of the play by the Head of Schools, Warren Townsend not to distract the children’s attention, as they stormed the stage, spraying Naira notes on them to show their appreciation.
The children’ss melodious voices, their harmonised dance steps and boldness on stage put together, won them a long standing ovation at the end of the play.
The production was indeed an honour to Nigeria’s foremost writer ,Prof Chinua Achebe and he definitely would be proud of how the children succeeded in bringing out the relevance of the book to the revival of the dying cultures of the Igbo Nation.
The adaptation of the book according to Gboyega Jerome who also was the artistic director, was brought down a bit to the level of the children without losing a touch of the message.
Speaking further at the end of the show, he said that Nigeria is in dire need of cultural revival which was the reason a book so rich with idiomatic expressions and proverbs, two identities of Igbo people,was chosen.
“Westernisation is fast replacing cultures of the land and the only way we can bring back our identities is through this kind of projects and I am glad the children did not disappoint us rather, they put up an overwhelming performance.” He said.