Beyond the garb… A call for communal self-censorship
Performed to commemorate World Theatre Day (WTD) 2017, at National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, Beyond the Garb interrogates topical issues that have changed work ethos, disconnected people from their cultural norms and created a society where everyone is in a rush to achieve quick success even in a dubious way.
It centres on Orurimeto, a rustic community, with the people prepared to crown a king. But like the ancient Greece philosopher, Diogenes the Cynic, they spend time searching for an honest man, a saint to rule over them, as king. None of the candidates, mostly from the city, meet the standard the villagers want. The villagers see anybody from the city as corrupt and unfit to pilot their affairs. They believe city people are of no good, especially as they attach the subsisting inflation in Orurimeto and its environs to their ineptitude in managing the economy. As the villagers blame the city people, the city people in turn, condemn them for being backward and not capable of leading a sophisticated lifestyle.
While this buck-passing goes on, Barr. Larmie (Olamide Agunpopo) call everyone –– the city dwellers and the rural people –– to take a second look at their opposing stance and allow the positive change everyone is calling for to start from them if they all want a progressive society.
With this, the play draws from the wisdom of one of America’s bestsellers, Spencer Johnson, says: “Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.” The people buy the lawyer’s idea, ruminate over it and the coronation goes on.
Written and directed by Mrs. Ayo Jaiyesimi, and produced by the Thespian Family Theatre and Productions, the over 70-minute total theatre performance used dialogue, humour, songs and dances to portray the decadence of Nigerian society right from the universities, to the security agencies, politics, governance and the industry. It showcases the anguish those who should care for the people have meted out on the majority.
Presenting the play at this time when the country is fighting corruption is a timely decision as it enabled the audience to appreciate and relate with the multiple themes, which border on honesty, hard work, deceit, get-rich-quick syndrome and others.
Cast members also did their best to effectively interpret their roles, and bring out the traits of each character. And of particular note is the police officer, Callistus (Samuel Animasaun), who played the good, the bad and the ugly of the police force, and brings out how members of the security agency carry out their trade. His performance breathed life into other roles.
HOWEVER, as good as the performance was, it had its some shortcomings. The looters identified in the play are not punished. In fact, there is no sign that Orurimeto has any form of punishment for them. This is not a true representation of a rustic community, which ought to have forms of punishment for people considered to display anti-social behaviour or who have done something to set the community back.
Most communities, which Orurimeto personify, have punishments ranging from excommunication, to death, denial of having any chieftaincy titles, for those who have gone against the grain. Though not expressed, it would have been better, at least, for this to be mentioned in passing, because every African society has different forms of carrot and stick approach to issues. Failing to do so shows unwittingly that African communities encourage sycophants, avarice and embezzlers.
Another flaw is the presence of a goat on stage. What was its significance there? Its presence was totally meaningless, as it played no known role. The director should have taken it off the stage, when the traders were leaving. In fact, the audience looked forward to seeing which role it would play. The wait, however, became in vain until the play ended.
Lastly, signposts are meant to draw attention to a particular location, but the one on stage pointed at opposite direction. This might appear negligible, but it goes to say how prepared the director of the play was and his regard for details and the audience. While the stage educates and informs, directors should be mindful of those little pieces of information that could mar their production.