By Oris Aigbokhaevbolo
The 2014 edition of Taruwa Festival of Performing Arts opened last night at Terrakulture.
For the occasion, three short skits by playwright and director Abiodun Kassim were performed to acclaim.
Kassim’s first skit involved a long monologue by a young woman contemplating the possibility and proximity of love having lived with parents in a failing marriage.
According to her ruminations, her parent’s marriage ends, but both mother and father refuse to trade blame, becoming better friends than spouses.
“I needed somebody to hate,” Bisi says mourning her parent’s unlikely friendship. Here, Kassim seems to say the culprit, at least for some marriages, isn’t necessarily the individual but the institution of marriage.
Applause greeted the play’s cliffhanger end: Bisi receives a message from her dad saying he will return home with his wife, her mother; but they do not return.
The other skits alternated between hilarity and solemnity, director Kassim becoming first a shrink for two men unable to communicate with their wives; and then a preacher where, taking off from his last play Band Aid, he spoke about domestic violence. For a while, the director cut the picture of a man undergoing reflexive therapy.
A delighted audience appreciated Kassim’s skits with applause and whoops.
Shortly after, it was time for The Engagement, the day’s key event. In the audience sat Ebuka, television host and former Big Brother contestant; Toyin Akinosho of the Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA); and the artist Victor Ehikhamenor.
Sefi Atta’s The Engagement takes place over a day, capturing a family’s relationship hours before the eponymous ceremony.
On the night before the engagement, Idowu (David Azeez) younger brother to Kehinde (Omoye Uzamere as the bride), meets his sister’s fiancé with another woman. Before taking off, his prospective in-law tells Idowu the unknown lady is his sister.
Without giving the episode much thought, Idowu tells the bride’s twin, Taiwo (Deola Shinaba), who has just returned to the country with ideas out of sync with her fatherland’s convention. Taiwo, aware her sister’s fiancé, who never appears throughout the play’s 40 minutes, doesn’t have a sister, decides to inform Kehinde.
That disclosure comes to have consequences for both the bride’s forthcoming union as well as for her parents’ marriage— a union built on her father’s excesses and her mother’s avoidance.
The play then becomes an exploration of the Nigerian marriage given— to quote Remi (Toyin James), the long-suffering matriarch— the “irresponsibility and childishness of men”.
As with Sefi Atta’s most famous work, the novel Everything Good Will Come, The Engagement features all-round strong female characters, callous, cheating men, and at least one libertine who defies society’s prescription for females and is subsequently deified by other characters.
That role is filled by Moni, aunty and idol to the girls. She drinks, smokes, has been married twice, has several affairs and is given the play’s best lines. The Terrakulture audience howled at Aunty Moni’s one-liners as the play explored sibling rivalry, feminism and polygamy deftly.
To close, Lydia Idakula Sobogun of Gbagyichild Entertainment, the festival’s organizer, thanked the audience and introduced her mother. Telling the audience her mother travelled to Lagos from Keffi, Nasarawa state, Ms. Sobogun called her mother a “mobile cheerleader.”
It was apt then that for a moment the crowd cheered the cheerleader.
Over the next few days, The Taruwa Festival of Performing Arts will feature dances, spoken word poetry, comedy, a workshop and close with a night of wining and dining. Tickets can be bought online at Afritickets.com, Ariiyatickets.com, Naijaticketshop.com and Quickteller.com.
The festival ends Saturday, June 7.