By SIMEON MPAMUGOH
Worried by the lull in live theatre in the country, the Association of Voice- Over Artistes (AVOA) recently provided its bar platform; AVOA Gazebo based in Surulere, Lagos, for the staging of Toyin Oshinaike’s What’s Dis All About. Written and directed by Oshinaike, the drama is a Nigerian adaptation of Woza Albert packaged by One Six Productions.
The project, which is tagged Shakk and Laff Bar Theatre Series is the association’s maiden attempt at reviving cottage theatres mainly to showcase talents of members and others in related fields including, poetry, drama, music and dance. The theatre saw the duo of Oluwatoyin Oshinaike and Simileoluwa Hassan, a youth corps member serving in Delta State entertain audience with intermittent outbursts of laughter, amid several rounds of applause.
AVOA President, Mrs Atere Roberts told Daily Sun that AVOA Gazebo Voice House, Surulere, is part of the association and a place meant for interaction, relaxation and networking for AVOA members and friends. She explained “ If we put our collective talents together, we can give Nigerian artistes a pride of place where they can be respected” adding that the entertainment industry in the last four years has been developed without government participation and patronage.
Roberts expressed the importance of voice in conveying a message across to the people. She therefore described voice as the most effective means of communication to the Nigerian audience especially in this era of re-branding. According to AVOA President.” it is by lending our collective and individual talents that Nigeria’s image can be re-branded”
Toyin Oshinaike, Director and Performer of the play also explained that What’s Dis All About is aimed at returning people to Jesus Christ so that they can begin to evaluate how they see, feel and accept Him. And in doing this we try to espouse different emotional and economic problems of the Nigerian State” Oshinaike recalled that in the past theater had suffered from low patronage such that it is has not been made to participate in the polity of the nation “ I don’t believe people should go to school study Arts only to be acting small plays. I think theater should actively and effectively participate in the politics in the politics of the society. It should contribute to change and development for the society.
Oshinaike believes that because live theatre has gone under. Bar Theatre Series becomes one of the ways to help re-waken it through bringing it nearer to the people. His words “ some call their own home video and theatre, Bar Theater Series is the angle we wish to approach it at the moment.
The dramatist spoke on the need to revive live performance in the industry. “ First and foremost, the practitioners under the umbrella of the welfare association should come together to discuss serious issues about the dearth of theatre. Individual creative minds should not bother about the economic strangulation of the industry but also try to come out with fantastic creative works that can further rejuvenate theatre”.
On the development of theater through motion picture Oshinaike noted, ” It is about history repeating itself. In those days in America when there was meltdown in the theatre industry, motion picture was used to revive it. When this started on broad-way and people saw there was going to be a hostage there was the tendency to return to the stage.
In Nigeria, the home video has not done badly. It came at a time when there was insecurity of lives and property that people do not want to go out to see just any show, salaries would not to be paid and happiness of the people was no longer the aim of government and many other problems. What I observe is that even as our actors and actresses go into motion picture, they should not forget to return to the stage because people who see them on screen, would also like to see them live on theatre. And we must not forget that theatre is the root of all creative arts.
The 1984 trained artiste who has represented the country in Germany, United Kingdom, France, and Ghana stated that one of the contributing factors to draught of live plays in Nigeria was political instability. “ Political unrest gave rise to insecurity and lack of confidence in the country. We also had the issue of power which affected theatre seriously: Some people who could not run theatre on diesel because they were not making as much returns as they deserve from the industry began o run away, while others would invest in shows with little returns, he explained.
Oshinaike equally berated government for not supporting artiste. “Government has not been fair to the theatre. May be now they now they have realized that theatre can be deployed for reinforcement, reorientation and mass mobilization of the people. But even at that, they are still not earmarking funds to execute this”.
Oshinaike said that plans are afloat to take the show to other communities. His words “ The Bar Theatre is an independent project of its own. But What’s Dis All About has been planed to go to communities like the ghettos in Ajegunle and other areas and perform free of charge. We hope that corporate organizations, well meaning individuals and lovers of the arts would support us. And in the next few weeks, we shall be having about three community outreach programmes.”
The play received wider commendation from the audience also served as social commentary on societal ills such as corruption and ineptitude among leaders. The performance was equally complimented with stints of dance and music by Alimison Babajide, a solo guitarist otherwise called Grassshoper and Engel,
It would be recalled that Woza Albert, a South African play by Barney Simon Mbogeni Ngema and Percy Mwta was created under the siege of apartheid and became one of the most outstanding successes in the anti – apartheid crusade. Its adaptation to the Nigerian social and political solution is also based on the same dazzling, simple and abstract idea of the second coming of Jesus Christ. The play presents, in a caricature form, critical issues of individual morals in a state of economic depression, showcasing in different comedy skits a lucid satire and commentary on the Nigerian state.
By SIMEON MPAMUGOH