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Echoes from Lagos festival of plays

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By Japhet Alakam

IT was another weekend of entertainment last week as theatre lovers in and around Lagos were held spell bound with plethora of performances  that cut across a number of unconventional spaces in the city of Lagos during the Lagos theatre festival 2013.

The festival which featured diverse performances across Lagos, held  at the Presidential Suites, Pentanque Area, Casa Chianti Restaurant and the Car Park, all at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos. It  was put together by British Council Nigeria in conjunction with three of Nigeria ‘s most exciting theatre companies;  Renegade Theatre, Black Soul Performance Company, House of Tales and award-winning British-Nigerian actor, Inua Ellams.

For every initiative, there is always a goal, and for the festival organisers, the aim of the festival  tagged,”The Lagos Theatre Festival 2013″, was to bring theatre to an even wider range of art consumers so as to  create a platform for theatre, away from conventional theatre spaces.

A scene from Grip Am, one of the plays performed during the festival
A scene from Grip Am, one of the plays performed during the festival

And that goal was  achieved as the plays were performed on natural environments  different from the normal theatre spaces that have good settings, light, music, costumes,  colours and other theatrical and other stage elements that characterise a normal stage.

And the audience were made to move from one venue to the other at the end of each play to watch another play. Despite all these, the  organisers succeeded  in their little experimentation as the four plays were performed  at the mapped out  venues. Also, the people that turned up for the two days had no regret at all.

The four plays performed were Shattered, a play written by Bode Asiyanbi. It held at the Presidential Suite, The Waiting Room written, produced and directed by Wole Oguntokun held at the Underground Car Park, Grip Am, a humourous classic play written by legendary Nigerian playwright  Ola Rotimi, held at Pentaque Area of Eko Hotels,and 14th Tale written by the Nigerian playwright, poet and actor, Ellams staged at the Casa Chianti Restaurant.

In the pidgin English comedy titled Grip Am , an experimental reworking of Ola Rotimi’s classic play directed by Deleke Gbolade and  produced by Black Soul Performance Company’s production, the audience were gripped with laughter as they saw how Mr Chairman tricked his landlord and Mr death into submitting to his demands.

Performed at the gardens at the Pentaque Area of Eko Hotels, the venue suited the play as the trees in the gardens served as props, while the two stools, a paddle, coconut, big stool and two pieces of Bonga fish were all used as props in the play.
For the 50 minutes the play lasted, the audience were relieved of their stress as it brought back memories of those stories that were told during tales by moonlight and they laughed away their sorrows at least for a while.

The play revolves around a scatter-brained trickster Siaman Oluwole Moses(Chairman) who uses his wits to cone his greedy landlord and even Mr death into giving him and his ever-belligerent wife eternal reprieve.

In The Waiting Room,  a thriller of sorts directed by Wole Oguntokun from Renegade Theatre , the audience were treated to a dramatic story of life that involved four people, two men and two women  and it tells individuals to be honest and always follow the right way of life.

Unlike Grip am where trickery works for Mr chairman, in Waiting room it was not so as it shows a place where luck will save no one; where natural cunning and innate intelligence must be put to the ultimate test.

Starring Sunkanmi Adebayo, (Keshi) Anike Alli- Hakeem, (Kera) Rotimi Fakunle (Don Flexy) and Jumoke Bello (Aduke), the characters in the play find themselves locked in a room courtesy of different invitations and while waiting in the room, they thought of many things and when it dawned on them that they could not help their condition, they submitted themselves to fate.

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