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Building bridges, live poetry resonates with Kakadu

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By Japhet Alakam

After the successful performances in Nigeria and Davos, Switzerland four years ago, the award winning “Kakadu” the Musical returns to the theatre stage this April for Lagos@50 celebration, before heading to the Nelson Mandela Theatre, Johannesburg as part of the Africa Day Celebrations from the 7th to the 18th of June 2017.

Since its premiere on May 2013, Kakadu, has not only redefined live theatre but also stimulated interest in the production of several other musicals, such that it has become a reference for others.

Written by Uche Nwokedi SAN, who is also the Executive Producer, and directed by Kanayo Omo, Kakadu is a musical capturing the possibilities, great music and distinct social life following the birth of a young nation during the 60’s.

A scene from the dramatic play, Kakadu

Kakadu is the journey of four friends through a time of the infinite possibilities. It is a time to dream and to hope. The four friends echo the ethnic diversity of the newly independent country. At the centre of it all is Kakadu’s charismatic manager, Lord Lugard (played by Benneth Ogbeiwi), a larger than life character who symbolises the pleasure seeking spirit of the club. Then the military coups set off a chain of events which lead to the civil war (the Biafran War) and changes begin to occur to their relationships.

The musical is a story of dreams and hopes, of peace and war, of friendships and broken promises, of pain and loss, and of love and innocence. It is an exciting blend of the western music of the 60s that influenced musical expressions in 1960s Africa, with highlife, afrobeat, contemporary and traditional Nigerian folk music, to produce the most wonderfully eclectic musical ever.

Significantly, Kakadu is about building bridges, promoting peaceful co-existence. This just as rehearsals for the show in Nelson Mandela Theatre, Johannesburg as part of the Africa Day Celebrations from the 7th to the 18th of June 2017, is already generating global interest, just as a video clip of rehearsal has gone viral.

According to the director, Omo, this is actually the first time a stage performance is going from Nigeria to South Africa. Even when the National Theatre was opened in 1977, it was Ipi Tombi that they used to open it. So, Kakadu is going to be staged in what is more or less their own national theatre, the Mandela Theatre is a big iconic theatre sitting over 1000 people. “And we have a new young cast, extremely enthusiastic, extremely talented. More importantly, we are also going to be doing a workshop in Soweto. Basically, we are looking at Kakadu as a classical African story. The problems that were addressed in Kakadu are in every African country.”

Kakadu has, no doubt, revived musical theatre in Nigeria, so “it has given birth to a new genre of theatre and it continues to grow”.

Omo, who is an artiste and director with over 30 years’ experience on stage and screen, hinted: “What is new in Kakadu now? Every year we’ve had to create a foundation to get true acting, to get to true delivery of the story. The story remains the same but some things have changed. But what is most important now is the actors are giving life to the story in a unique way that they haven’t before. It is not about telling people what to do; it is about them bringing material to the story, building a very powerful experience and delivering it to the international stage.

Ogbeiwi notes that Kakadu could actually “address the little issues we have about ethnicity, politics, religion, and, of course, the question that lingers in the mind of every Nigerian”.


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