The midnight hotel … story of a decaying state
As Nigerian leaders are looking for ways out of the nation’s current financial crisis, theatre groups are not resting on their oars, as some are imbuing their audiences to live up to their duties and responsibilities, as citizens so that the efforts of our heroes past and current leaders would not be in vain.
Using the play titled, The Midnight Hotel, Agape Theatre group, last Sunday at Agege, showed some of the challenges facing Nigeria, as a developing nation and also called on all, to come together as one to move the country forward.
Written by Femi Osofisan, the play satirically depicts the various social ills such as bad leadership and following, highlighting how these twins ills have affected all facet of our political and economic life right from independence to present-day democratic era.
It opens with the chief waiter, Chief Jimoh (Lukmon Oluwaseyi), welcoming guests to the Midnight Hotel. He tells them never to limit their requests, as the facility, can provide the best of pimps across the globe. Still on the uniqueness of his hotel, he warns clients, especially those not from the African continent, to be courageous and expect anything — the good, the bad and the ugly.
It recalls how underhandedness, injustice and fraudulent practices in government have made the proprietors partition the original three-room hotel to a 12-room facility, and later to 19 and eventually to 36 rooms, including the proprietor’s office, given out just to meet the demands of its teeming clients. The waiter maintains that his hotel is like the Biblical Canaan, which flows with milk and honey, yet the take home of most of the worker cannot really take them home.
While still speaking, a married lady, Awero (Olufunke Adewusi), a Member of Parliament, enters with her husband’s friend, Pastor Suuru (Femi Adetutu), a popular cleric, to have some fun and for her to approve his contract. Even when the cleric is against the condemnable act, the lady presses him to do it, saying it is the order of the day in the parliament. She persuades the said man of God to sleep with her, ‘sample’ her, to get his contract approved. She discloses that member of the house samples contractors to approve their contracts.
While both are trying to conceal their illicit act, not wanting anybody to know they are in the hotel, Alatishe, (Kunle Lawal), a failed headmaster and politician, comes in with his under-aged female children. He is running away from his debtors and his opponents, who are now in power. He meets Awero by accident and explains his plight to her. He pleas for his daughters to stay with her, but that falls on deaf ears.
Awero is uncomfortable with the situation; she does not want anybody to know that she is in the hotel, let alone know that she is with another woman’s husband, a popular pastor in a hotel. The parliamentarian gets upset and wants Alatishe and her children to leave her alone. As they leave Awero’s room, they meet the pastor at the corridor. Surprise, the cleric cooks up some funny tales, as reasons for staying at the corridor.
However, the room allotted to Alatishe and her daughters happens be for the proprietor of the hotel, who had come to assess his facility and to upgrade it, but sets out of the facility, when the porter gives it out. The man comes in to find strangers sleeping on the bed in white nighties in the dark, he raises alarm thinking they are ghost and the whole hotel goes amok. Guests run for safety. The ensuring confusion attracts everyone in the hotel to the lounge, except for the soldiers, who are upstairs drinking.
At the lounge, the hotel owner sees his wife, Awero and Suuru, his pastor friend and Alatishe. He tries to find out why they are there, but the pastor plays smart. He comes up with a story that defuses any bad blood and suspicion. There is temporary reunion for the group, but Alatishe daughters are not so lucky, as the soldiers they run to for help defile them.
In using the stage as a veritable medium to correct the societal decay, The Midnight Hotel employs humour, music, dance, sarcasm, iconographies, proverbs, witticism and metaphor to give a panoramic view of Nigeria. It highlights themes such as corruption, bad management, child abuse, mythicism, profiteering and military impunity to tell the fear some people live in or are experience every day.
With the hotel being a personification of Nigeria, where the laws are lax, the play systematically uses the protagonist, the waiter, for archetype of Nigerian politicians that would promise paradise during campaigns, but would deliver nothing to the people, when they are voted into power.
It also shows how the security agents that are maintained with the taxpayers’ money turn round to demean the very people they are paid to protect.
In a nutshell, The Midnight Hotel tells the harrowing story of how Nigeria’s security operatives connive with criminals to do evil.The play also gives a knock on religious leaders, who are expected to live above board, but who, for the love of money and the lust of the flesh, have sold their respect and misleads people to do evil. They have left their primary assignment of Shepherding to doing otherwise. Recognising the family as a unit of society, the play calls on parents, government and other stakeholders in child upbringing to take their duties seriously and pay proper attention to the young ones.
Directed by Eyitoayo Ajeigbe, the play advocates that children should be brought up in a sound and healthy environment, harping on the need for good morals.
However, despite the casts’ excellent role interpretation and dance, which was captivating, the director failed to spiced it up with the play with the latest highlife music to make it reflect current situations. There should have been a bit of the old and new school music, especially as current political parties were mentioned. It sounded inappropriate to be talking of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) while the music is of 60s.
Also the stage was rowdy and the exist and entrance points were not clearly defined, as some of the cast used the point of entrance for exist vice versa. Though they rendered their lines seemingly, the stage light did not help matters, as most of the scenes were with floodlight, instead of using light to create effects.