The Beatification of Lagos: Review of Wole Soyinka’s Latest Play

January 13, 2024
2 mins read

By Dami Ajayi | culled from

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 acclaim.


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