By Dami Ajayi | culled from olisa.tv
Sunday, April 26, 2015.
It is not every day that you see a
play written and directed by Wole Soyinka, but, over the past three days, The
Beatification of An Area Boy, has been performed at Freedom Park, Broadstreet,
Lagos, under the aegis of Lagos Black Heritage Festival.
The three-hour long stage play follows a day or two in the life of
Sanda, an educated security guard of an uptown plaza that interfaces with
Maroko, a below-sea-level slum that is no longer in existence. The political
setting is the heydays of military incursion in governance, a time of
prurient Kleptocracy and austerity and censorship.
The loosely plotted play strives for social commentary reminiscing the
good old days of the oil boom, Udoji salary scale and how the national journey
went awry. In spite of his educational qualification, Sanda, enthusiastically
played by Wale Ojo, seemed to be boxed into the lowly job of a guard but things
are not quite what they seem.
The play roves around the concerns of the masses with panoramic lenses.
Fellow characters are stall-owners around the plaza—Trader who sells ties and
clock and Raybay sunshades; Mama Put, the food vendor and widow who struggles
with life having lost her husband to the civil war; Judge, played by Ropo
Ewenla, a debarred lawyer who has fractured his mind, and the blind singing
beggar played by veteran Tunji Oyelana.
These characters and Sanda coalesce into a survival unit with a common
goal of surmounting the austerity whilst they continue to lament about the
polity. Their arrangement was seemingly perfect until an old girlfriend of
Sanda walks into the picture on the eve of her wedding ceremony.
The expansive space of Freedom Park was optimised for this elegant
performance with the play’s scenes roving around like a mobile theatre. The
play was ripped off of the stage with improvised cameo performances from even
the audience–Rt Hon Rotimi Amaechi as the Military Governor of Lagos.
What would one expect from a play with such a sterling cast, directed by
the octogenarian Nobel Laureate himself? The only glitches were from the
gremlins that tampered with the roving mics and the inattentive band
accompanying the musical interludes. The audience was robust cutting across all
works of life to include even uniformed primary school pupils.
Ironically, a space of such historical importance as a colonial prison
was deployed to stage a play of such national importance. Ultimately the play
is about our political milieu. Even in the wake of another democratic
dispensation, the military continues to feature in the polity as retired and
seemingly reformed Generals.
The play written in 1990 is perhaps even more relevant today on account
of the political journey of our democracy and this is reflected in the play as
it traps in the discrete details of our contemporariness.
The Lagos Black Heritage Festival continues at Freedom
Park, Lagos, Nigeria.
Dami Ajayi is a writer, poet and
medical doctor. He is also the Fiction Editor of Saraba Magazine. He is one of
Africa’s emerging new voices. Clinical Blues, his first volume of poetry, was recently published to critical