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Lighting up Lagos with Dance Drama

Posted: Apr 19, 2015 at 12:24 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Yemi Adebisi, Acting Head, Literary/Arts

News of an impending visit by the historic Globe Theatre in England was a major factor in Lagos Black Heritage Festival’s decision to prolong its break from the geography based thematic series – The Black in the Mediterranean Blue – on which the Festival embarked in 2012.

ArtHolding from April 18 to 25, at Freedom Park, Lagos Island, the visit of a famed professional theatre to the festival seemed too good an opportunity to miss.

The year’s edition was decided to centre activities around – drama with the theme: Drama, and Dance-Drama.

The excursion into Drama as central theme would however offer a special contribution to the artistic trail blazed by these visitors. Its format was inspired by an increasing awareness of the need to bring theatre closer to the people, not merely confine it to predictable, albeit efficiently structured venues.

Freedom Park will therefore constitute only one of this year’s drama venues, though without abandoning its role as the hub of the Festival.

Other activities include the pilot edition of the Mentor/Protégé project. Experienced hands in the sub-disciplines of the Dramatic Arts – playwriting, acting, directing, technical theatre, dance-drama etc. have been invited to mentor one aspiring theatre practitioner each, in a learning collaboration lasting six weeks.

At the end of this period, protégés will showcase their projects.

Interested audiences will be permitted to observe some of this aspect of ‘passing the baton,’ a condensed exercise in what is also known as apprenticeship, or passing on skills.

The Festival will also pay homage to one of the Nigerian theatre veterans with a wide experience of the stage both abroad and in Nigeria, and who has been a source of inspiration to a whole generation of theatre artistes in the Meet the Artiste series.

In addition to that, the works of late veteran artiste, Hubert Ogunde is expected to steal the show.

The Boat Regatta will also light up the lagoon that gave name to the City of Waters, while the Street Carnival constantly re-invents itself in the capacity to dazzle and inebriate with its cocktail of extravagant Costuming, Music and Design through the streets of Lagos.

Like every other year, the children would be given the opportunity to discuss on a selected theme: The Road to Sambisa.

Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has been commissioned to be the Festival Consultant.

Other major highlights include: Masquerade Parade from Badagry, Children Art & Art fair/Bazaar; Talent Hunt programme for youth; six plays on showcase for Dance & Dance Drama; Night of the Poets among others.

The ‘Meet the Artiste’ showcase will celebrate the stage and screen career of Olu Jacobs while the music performance would be anchored by great voices like Emukay; Jimi Solanke; Eko Brass Band and many more.

Participants would be thrilled with a play with a ‘love angle’ from the hands of playwright, Professor Soyinka titled The Beautification of Area Boys from Tuesday to Thursday (April 21-23).

The play is set in the middle of a military dictatorship.

It was written in 1990, during the Abacha season of terror.  In the preliminary stages of rehearsal, the author was strongly urged to take a ‘sabbatical leave’ for health reasons.

Also, Seizing Sambissa, a Dance Drama written by Francesca Emanuel & Ogochukwu Promise would be part of the exploit of the great festival, hitting the stage on Thursday April 23, 1pm at Main Stage, Freedom Park. Conceptualised by Segun Adefila, the play is directed by Seun Awobajo and produced by  Footprints of David Academy.

Seizing Sambisa is a dance drama woven around the ravaging story of the 276 female students kidnapped in the night of April 14-15 from Government Secondary School, Chibok town in Borno State.

Members of Boko Haram sect later claimed responsibility for the kidnap. The girls were said to have been taken into the ‘Sambisa Forest’ – a former colonial forest reserve – said to cover about 60,000 square kilometers and straddling the North-Eastern states of Borno, Yobe, Gombe, and Bauch.

One year after, though some of the girls were reported to have eventually escaped, about 219 of them are yet to be accounted for!

Deploying sarcastic humour to blunt the edge of pain, the dance piece explores the fate of these school children, the impact on the psyche of parents, companions and the community from which they have been plucked.

Folklore, dance and music hold the audience in thrall.

According to the organisers, this experimental dance drama is a work in progress, inspired by this year’s Festival Theme for the Vision of the Child, and presented as its companion piece.

The offering also reveals possibilities of a multi-media performance format for a future Children’s Theatre.

Since inception in December 2005, Footprints of David Art Academy has been using art as a tool for change in the society and beyond. Its members are mostly children, and pupils and students in elementary and secondary schools. The troupe, however, strives to perform to international standard in performing arts, and has been a key feature in the Lagos cultural circuit.

At Terra Kulture Thursday April 23 by 6p.m., lovers of art will be privileged to have a feat of Snapshots, written and  directed by Bode Sowande but produced by Odu Themes. A weekened piece on Friday April 24 would compensate those who miss out at Freedom Park by 7p.m.

The main character, Baba Gentle is a landlord in a Lagos slum. He is not at peace with himself because of a failed investment. Confused by the notion of the urban Master Plan, he seeks the assistance of his elder sibling, Brother Agba, a land speculator and a Godfather in State politics. Between dusk and dawn of the same day, the entire community of street ladies, homeless layabouts, with cunning, desperation and frenzy, at first  surrender to fate, and then resort to mischief and crime.

A bulldozer driver is abducted and then released, in a kafkaesque plot and counter-plot, as the community seeks to halt the bulldozer.

The politician Honourable (When Able) soon arrives with the favela formula that makes the ghetto a tourist and cultural destination, with a promised utopia.

The community climbs down the cliff hanger to celebrate in a street fuji music party. Snapshots was premiered 20th October, 2014-World Habitat Day– on commission by Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Planning.

Same year the group went on television for many years of unbroken chronology, at WNTV (NTA Ibadan). It went on NTA national network with Acada Campus with concurrent programming on BCOS, Ibadan.

The company has had regular stage productions, at least once a year, since 1972.

An international award-winning production written and directed by Wole Oguntokun, the Tarzan Monologues will be celebrated on Friday April 24 by 6p.m at Terra Kulture. It is a theatrical compilation of global topics as seen through the eyes of African men. The issues dealt with include the societal pressure on men to succeed, the dilemma of finances, women and children, sexual abuse, religion and infidelity among many others. The monologues humorously

provide insight into the complexities in the nature of men, their world, pains, tragedies, triumphs and frustrations. It also encourages the scrutiny of stances on gender relations through the use of drama, music and dance.

Other drama presentations include The Tragedy of King Christophie by late Aime Cesaire;  Gbekude (Street theatre devised by Gboyega Ajayi Bembe); and Finding Fela, directed by Alex Gibney;