With Midnight Hotel, Osofisan takes a panoramic view of governance, leadership
As the nation prepares for another round of elections in 2019, the polity is gradually becoming heated, with politicians trying to outwit one in order to be elected.
Jocko Willink, the retired American United States Naval officer and author must have had a fore knowledge of all this, when he said: “Leading people is the most challenging, and therefore, the most gratifying undertaking of all human endeavours.”
Using the play titled, The Midnight Hotel, One Theatre Troupe, last Sunday, dramatised some of the challenges facing Nigeria, as a developing nation. The group also used the platform to call on all those yet to collect their PVCs to do so and make their votes count.
Written by Femi Osofisan, the play satirically depicts the various ills plaguing the society. It highlights how the bad leadership and docile following have affected all facets of political and economic life of the nation, right from independence to date.
It opens with the chief waiter, Chief Jimoh (Durotoye Akinwale), 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 owners partition the original three-room hotel to a 12-room facility, and later to 19 and eventually 36, including the owner’s office, given out to create more rooms 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 pay of most of the workers cannot really take them home.
While still speaking, a married lady, Awero (Mabel Osaro), a Member of Parliament, enters with her husband’s friend, Pastor Suuru ( David Bassey), 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 tricks the said ‘Man of God’ to sleep with her, ‘sample’ her, to get his contract approved. She discloses that members of the House sample contractors to approve their contracts.
While both are trying not to let anybody to know they are in the hotel, Alatishe (Tunji Martins), a failed headmaster and politician, comes in with his underage 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 pleads 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. Surprised, the cleric cooks up some funny tales, as reasons for staying at the corridor.
However, the room allotted to Alatishe and her daughters happens to be for the hotel’s owner, who had come to assess his facility and 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 the alarm, thinking they are ghosts and the whole hotel goes amok. Guests run for safety. The ensuing 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 suspicion. There is temporary reunion for the group, but Alatishe’s 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 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 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 an archetype for Nigerian politicians that would promise paradise during campaigns, but would deliver nothing to the people, when voted into power.
It also shows how security operatives 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 knocks 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 mislead people to do evil. They have left their primary assignments 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, especially the girl-child and children: Protect them against molesters and teach them what would make them maladjusted children.
Directed by Timi Ishola, 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 spice up the play with current highlife music to 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.
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