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At Jos Festival Of Theatre, Life Experiences Connect Audience With stage


A theatre play. Image source kingsriverlife

A theatre play. Image source kingsriverlife

THE opening play at the ninth Jos Festival of Theatre, King Hedley ll, well introduced the audience to the quality of stage artistry and panache expected from the Jos Repertory Theatre, as the non predictable weather of the city played its part to the understanding of the theatrical experience at the Alliance Française, venue of the event, which ran from March 10 to 14.

Themed Untold Stories, the festival had a unique motif as explained by Patrick-Jude Oteh, the festival’s producer and artistic director.

“All the plays seen at the festival have a unique connection to how people seek to find meanings in their lives. From August Wilson’s King Hedley ll, Sefi Atta’s Last Stand, Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo’s Body Parts, Jacinto Benavente’s The Bonds of Interest and Barclays Ayakoroma’s Castles In The Air, all the characters we confront offer different visions of life and how they live it and possibly surmount it,” he said.

“How they surmount these challenges will hopefully be for each of us, the dismantling of cultural stereotypes and dissemination of new knowledge.”

According to Oteh, the aim is not to isolate any form of art, but rather look at specific firms of engagement with artistic languages, styles, forms and genres. The need for dialogues assumes more urgency considering the insecurity and challenges being faced in the country.

“It is a new and urgent assignment for the arts built on promoting the direct and personal experience of high quality artistic performances, while acknowledging the fact that direct people to people connections retain an abiding power in the age of the Internet and digital mediation.”

He said, “increasingly, we are all beginning to appreciate the symbiotic relationship between the economy of any nation and the arts. In the last couple of years, the arts, especially the stage arts, have been buffeted by the harsh economic realities. Our Nigerian situation is dire, as most people do not see the relationship between the arts and a healthy society.

“The arts will be one of the very few bridges that will help us build new visions and new cities to be inhabited by a new people as we increasingly see the tearing down of traditional borders and demarcations in different parts of the world post the Arab Spring revolutions and re-definitions.”

While explaining the relationship between the US Mission and the Festival of Theatre in Jos, Robert Kerr, Cultural Attaché to the US Mission in Nigeria, said, “we think it is good that we don’t just support programmes in Abuja and Lagos, we like to support programmes around the country, and we have traditionally supported this one, this is the fourth year in a row that we have supported this theatre festival.

We are anxious to support the arts in different places, we do it in Lagos and Abuja and wanted to do it in Jos.” One of the plays, Body Parts, had premièred at the festival. Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, who was present at the event, gave the audience the rare experience of interacting with the playwright.

Body Parts is one of three plays by Onukaba that examines the unemployment situation in Nigeria. It is the story of a group of young men who out of being unemployed create jobs for themselves by hawking their vital organs to the highest bidder. There is a strong demand for kidneys and they have very healthy ones to sell. But there is a snag as they sell to someone who has a history with their family dating back thirty years.

King Hedley II depicts life in Pittsburgh in 1985. King Hedley II is out of jail. He comes back home, gets married and tries to live making his own rules. He lives with his mother and his wife, whom he would very much love to see get pregnant. She eventually gets pregnant, but decides to have an abortion, as she would not want to have a child who would not know his father.

His mother’s lover of 30 years appears and decides to formally marry his mother, but before this happens, he asks her to tell King Hedley II who his real father is. Unfortunately, he had killed his father during a row over some gambling debts.

On the day, they decide to get their marriage license; all the secrets, which she had taught she would take to her grave, come tumbling out with disastrous consequences. Castles in the Air exposes traditional prejudices on mixed marriages between diverse ethnic groups in Nigeria. Aminu and Stella are promised the sum of N10m if they get married within a year and give birth to a son. But are the two ready?

Last Stand is the story of a family torn apart by the will of their dying patriarch, a retired military General. Who does he leave his estate to? The designated heir is not interested in the wealth and that leaves the estate open to a fight between two wives, a dead wife and their children. Last Stand premiered at the Terra Kulture in Lagos, last November.

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