The Seige… theatrical narrative of Soyinka’s philosophy

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ByPRISCA SAM DURU

Reminiscences on the dark chapter of the deeds of colonial masters during the scramble for and partition of Africa is not in anyway, meant to revisit old wounds as that became history with attainment of independence.

But then, owing to the fact that almost every African country is bedeviled with civil war and or terrorism as well as bad leadership with most ‘rulers’, hanging unto power, it becomes imperative that for Africa to deal with the challenges, its root or foundation must be revisited.

A scene from the seige

A scene from the seige

Perhaps, this is why Sam Omatseye’s play, ‘The Siege’ is set to premiere by 5pm on the 24th of July at the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos. The play directed by veteran stage producer and director, Wole Oguntokun which also, celebrates Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka @ 80, will be speaking to Sudan where it is set as well as Nigeria to see if the two countries and indeed others in the continent will learn from their past and make amends.

The Seige tells the real story of Charles Gordon, a Briton who was in the British Army in charge of Khartoum, Sudan in the 19th century. He was asked to leave Sudan by his government which felt it couldn’t hold Khartoum anymore. Gordon refused because he thought he could hold it for his country. Unfortunately, he met a man who was as zealous and as strong as himself in the person of Mahdi who fought to hold his country back from the British.

Speaking ahead of the premiere, the writer and executive producer, Sam Omatseye explained that he chose to celebrate Soyinka with ‘The Seige’ because, “To me, Soyinka has really been an iconic figure since my teenage years. He has inspired me in many ways that I can really articulate, not only in his politics, but in his human right struggles, battle for democracy and African dignity. He has also shown to be, even in the literary world, a man of great courage in the experimentation in the use of language and exploration of very didactic themes of our contemporary Nigeria, Africa and even the world. Therefore, I saw that there was no way I could pay a personal tribute to this avatar of literature in my own small way than dedicate this play to him at this special occasion.”

“I am using both white actors –they are from England –and Nigerian actors.”
The Director Wole Oguntokun, who has been promoting the theatre business through his Renegade Theartre, for a decade, disclosed that the “Play is based on an original happening.”  “ It’s about the siege the Mahdi laid on Khartoun with Gordon inside Sudan’s city which led to his (Gordon’s) death.  Its about people who hold and believe in their own ideologies.

The two men fundamentally, believed in the course they fought. The writer was probably telling people to sometimes, look at both sides of an altercation. For instance, Because I’m a christian, muslim cannot have a view point, its dangerous. Also, Muslim cannot try to impose sharia on Christians. In any situation where two sides are fighting, each must try to look at where the other is coming from.”

Oguntokun said. According to him, “Elections are coming and people tend to feel that because you come from a particular side of the country you shouldn’t vie for a position. We are very tribal people, individuals look at tribe first before the country. That is one of the lessons we want people to take home from ‘The Seige’. Always allow room for the other side because that other side has a belief that is as valid as yours.”

The play he said, also “celebrates Soyinka who is a foremost proponent of live and let live. Its not that we must stage one of his plays to celebrate him but this is like showcasing his philosophy. As long as a belief does not lead to killing people then let them be. That’s how best to celebrate Soyinka who strongly believes in freedom.”

The Seige is an epic  play that takes a serous look at bigotry and exposes it for what it is. The premiere parades 16 star actors both local and foreign.
One of the white actors from UK, Sam Quinn (playing the role of Charles Gordon), said “Good to be back in Nigeria. Colonialism is not something am proud of as an English person. It’s a dark chapter when you consider what happened to local people.

A difficult role to play being the bad guy. Both key players were very religious and strongly believed that God was on there side. The role is challenging because I’m not a christian.  and even the manner of lines are unique as well. Its poetic, an epic play, it’s a play that everybody should see and appreciate. Unfortunately, infrastructure for theatre  is not very strong for the country, if I have a venue paid for, I will allow it show for like 4 or 5months.  It speaks to society and the situation on ground. It is an epic  play that takes a serous look at bigotry and exposes it for what it is.

The premiere parades 16 star actors both local and foreign.
One of the white actors from UK, Sam Quinn (playing the role of Charles Gordon), said “Good to be back in Nigeria.

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