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To travel into memory is to forget


A scence from ‘Strelitzia,’ an experimental play staged at the Lagos Theatre festival

Strelitzia is the scientific name of a native South African plant popularly known as the ‘bird of paradise’. Why an experimental play in the Lagos Theatre festival fused with poetry, song and dance is named after it is a question I was too shaken by the experience to ask.

The entire installation is in four rooms separated by plywood. Pictures of former Nigerian heads of state and political leaders tacked to the wall of the first room buttress the feeling that you are walking into your past.

In the second room, a young man dances like he is caught in a nightmare. A woman’s silhouette dancing sinuously to Zayn Malik’s Pillow Talk shakes off the haunting feel of the second room and opposite the silhouette, a woman in white sings a medley of songs my inner child remembers.

There is almost no stage, the performances are in your face, you can almost reach out to touch. The performances overlap, so that even when the audience have turned their backs, it goes on. There is a feel of unpredictability to the entire play that is scary.

White and black are the main colours and a human light-bearer leads the audience from experience to experience. And when you wash your hands in water, after scribbling “your memory on the wall” as directed by the lead storyteller-poet, Donna Ogunnaike, in the fourth room, there is an undeniable sense that you have experienced something you have never had before.

Chika Jones s a participant in the ongoing Young Critics workshop organised by the International Association of Theatre Critics, British Council Nigeria and Guardian Newspapers as part of 2017 Lagos Theatre Festival.

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Lagos Theatre Festival

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