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Day Soyinka in the eye of Shakespeare went on stage

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Day Soyinka in the eye of Shakespeare went on stage

 

Recently, students of the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos, Akoka, celebrated the Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka who clocked 84 on July 14, 2018. With three highly-engaging plays, directed by students of the Dept, the University community was treated to three weeks of entertaining and educating plays, under the artistic direction of the award-winning playwright, scholar, and lecturer, Lekan Balogun. The three pays are ‘Soyinka in the eye of Shakespeare’ by Lekan Balogun, Ogun Skugga, also by Lekan Balogun, and The Banter by Bisi Ademakinwa.

‘Soyinka in the eye of Shakespeare’ is a creative re-interpretation of Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman (with additional materials from ‘The Lion and the Jewel’) and Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ (with additional materials from Romeo and Juliet). Directed by Prescott Egbo, the play, “straddles the points of adaptation, tradaptation, intertextuality and re-contextualisation, by relocating the plays to a new setting, with a new purpose and vision.”

In ‘Soyinka in the eye of Shakespeare’, Elesin Oba and Macbeth are prisoners of conscience, holed up in confinement under the supervision of an eccentric character, Pilkings, who is bent on establishing authority in a chaotic place where penance by the two prisoners is difficult to achieve. This difficulty is in the shape of Lady Macbeth, who is bent on winning her husband’s love and attention again and an Elesin whose weakness is still a woman, with the unexpected twist coming at a crucial time that the trajectory of the two characters’ lives were about to change for good. Balogun brings to bear on the works of the two playwrights, his deep knowledge of both African and Western dramatic traditions.

In Ogun Skugga, Balogun adapts for the stage Soyinka’s prison memoir, The Man Died, as a powerful and thought-provoking examination of the political unrest and civil disturbances which led to the Nigeria/Biafra War. Directed by Abdulwali Balogun, the play dramatizes Soyinka’s incarceration, humiliation and maltreatment by the military regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon, following his (Soyinka’s) involvement in the events leading to, and surrounding, the Civil War. Soyinka’s imprisonment and the experiences which both the book and play capture are a strong statement about the polity and the principal players in the execution of those dastard acts which remain a spot on our collective bleeding conscience. Although these events occurred over fifty years ago, recent situations show clearly that the evil still lives with us, and that the country continues to wallow in violence and carnage which seem to define our own kind of humanity. It was the first time ever, anywhere in the world, that the book will be adapted for the stage. Just as he did in Soyinka in the eye of Shakespeare, Balogun also demonstrates a keen awareness of Nigerian politics and how same can be aesthetically represented on stage.

The third play, The Banter by Bisi Ademakinwa, which was directed by Tolwanimi “Kesh” Ogunlela, chronicles the social and political events that date back to the military incursion of party politics in Nigeria in 1983, to the cold, calculated, and brutal assassination through letter bomb of Dele Giwa, to the brazen annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential elections won by the late M.K.O Abiola, as well as the violence which accompanied it. Indeed, ‘The Banter’ is a vintage window into the shenanigan called “politics” and “governance” in the country. From a despot to another, political assassination and tribal feud sponsored by powerful cabals, the play chronicles the nation in search of peace, meaning, and purpose, and especially how it continually becomes difficult to make sense of “reality” in a society which moves two steps forward and a thousand steps backward.

 

In attendance at these brilliant performances include former Chairman, University of Lagos chapter of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Laja Odukoya, and his successor, Dr. Dele Ashiru, former Public Relation Manager, NIPOST, Mr. Taiye Olaniyi, and Chairman, National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), Lagos State chapter, Mr. Makinde Adeniran. The Head of the Department of Creative, Prof Adepeju Layiwola, who was obviously elated by the success of the three plays, commended the actors and Dr. Lekan Balogun, for the unusual commitment that he has been putting into ensuring the proper training and development of the students of the Department. She recalls that earlier in May this year, Dr. Balogun directed Akinwunmi Isola’s ‘Efunsetan Aniwura’, for the University of Lagos, Convocation play. The success of the play is still being talked about till date. Prof Layiwola also pledged her commitment to support everything that is good and will present both the Department and the University in good light. She mentioned her effort to build an art gallery which will showcase some of the best works by staff and students of the Department as well serving as a centre for creativity in the University.

 

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