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Bewaji’s the convenient asshole plumbs depths of human failings

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A scene from the play

Joy Isi Bewaji is fast becoming a regular feature in the Lagos’ cultural space as a player in the writing, theatric and cinematic scenes, where she is carving a special niche for herself. The Convenient Asshole is her recent effort at dramatic exploration of the human condition. Although she bemoaned rather cheekily on social media recently after staging the play that art was about ruining Christmas for her, as it had taken all her money, she has set her mind on a determined course of deploying her art to give flesh to the many ideas and social issues she rants about on Facebook, which makes her a favourite personality to follow. Her Write Culture outfit is redefining creative writing into a unique field, with all the allure there is to the craft. Now a new academy is being added as a testament to Bewaji’s bold spirit in expanding the limits of the human imagination.

Indeed, Bewaji is a woman uniquely made for the moment, who seizes 21st century tools as though they are specially made to serve her purpose. That is exactly what her play expoused last week, when she staged it at Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos. Only Bolanle Austin-Peters of Terra Kulture inaugurated her Saro musical theatre performance at the pricey venue before she arrived at her current Theatre Arena. Writer and director, Bewaji’s The Convenient Asshole explores family dynamics and veers into forbidden regions of lust and sexuality and all the familiar mix of marital infidelity, parental neglect, prostitution, and the unfamiliar quest of a man who does not want children.

Although we do not know the cultural background of Charles (Bryan Okoye) and what point his wife Annabel (Tolu Odewumi) discovers he cannot father children, she takes matters into her hands and goes out to get pregnant. Unknown to her, Charles had willfully undergone vasectomy and cannot have children. Through her infidelity, Annabel bears her husband three children. But Charles gets the last laugh in spite of her protestations: ‘Every normal couple bears children!’ Making a woman pregnant isn’t something he can achieve. So where did her three pregnancies come from?

But these do not unravel immediately. They come in a series of flashbacks as the dramatic unfolding happens from the present to the past, when Charles, out of anger at being lied to by his wife, decides to seek revenge against her treachery. To hurt his wife, he goes on a sex binge outside his matrimonial bed. He decides on prostitutes, as he confesses, ‘So I could really hurt and demean her.’ Taking on women who are beneath his wife is Charles’s idea of hitting back a wife who does not bat an eyelid to bring in bastards into his home, egged on by her ambitious mother.

Charles brings home a prostitute as part of his continuing revenge mission against his wife although she has moved out. Rather than go straight to sex, Charles is somewhat bashful and tentative and it gives the young, alluring and voluble prostitute Latasha (Nene Nwanyo) opportunity at a conversation and questions about his personal life. At first Charles is put off by her chattiness and endless questions, but he soon finds it strangely attractive and decides to go along with her. It is the unusual prostitute/client relationship. Charles is a man wounded by love, who is seeking sex therapy to heal his battered soul. But instead of plain sex, it is the prostitute who ingenuously offers the quaint psychological healing he truly desires with her engaging conversation. Then he begins ot warm up to her.

But then it turns out a revelatory moment when Latasha, in response to why she winds up a prostitute, she simply says her parents abandoned as a child and had to grow up and fend for herself on the streets. This seems alien to Charles’s world. Why would any parent do such a mean thing? Importantly, how did she survive? Thus begins the alternate storytelling that unearth Charles and Latasha’s past lives that seems similar in their being betrayed by those they once loved.

Charles truly loved Annabel, but he never wanted children yet she goes ahead to give ‘him’ three. Latasha’s love for her first boyfriend Spanner (Olawale Junaid) turned sour when he pimps her to any man willing to pay handsomely to him. He batters her if she fails deliver. Until she meets a drug baron who takes Spanner, but she disappears soon as he suggests they relocate to Spain. She winds up in the streets good.

When eventually she gives Charles a blowjob, he is transported to a place he didn’t know exists before. Like the drug baron, Charles offers to take her on a journey to explore the world. He’d never had a conversation so enthralling before with the many women he’d had. Latasha just seems the right sort of companion. But she has a counter offer for him. Although he may not technically be the father of those children from his wife, he still owes them a responsibility to care for them, especially the girl among so she doesn’t end up on the streets like her.

And this perhaps might just be Bewaji’s ultimate dramatic intention in The Convenient Asshole, as an extended expostulation of her feministic vision, which is hinged on giving equality to both males and females. Latasha’s parental abandonment ultimately works to shortchange her outcome as a human being deprived of potential, which is in sync with Charles’s remark that she speaks well for a whore! Although we are not told, Spanner too suffered such poor parenting, which explains why he has to live off on earnings from the sexual exploits of his girlfriend rather than go out and work.

Though The Convenient Asshole had a sparse audience, it’s a play in need of a bigger audience and venue. However, two areas need tightening up. First dramatic error is Latasha picking up Charles’s shirt, which his wife tosses at him, which he flings to the ground during the first flashback. In flashback, characters not involved are usually frozen in time and do not move or interfere with the action. Another is the number of children Annabel had before Charles realizes or remembers he’d had vasectomy. Why didn’t he react at the first pregnancy? Why allow three pregnancies before he comes to realization that he’d been duped by his wife? Cutting it to just one pregnancy does it for verisimilitude; two and three make it improbable.

Also, Bewaji has devised a winsome opening musical glee for her theatrical performances that gets the audience captivated. Tamara (singer) sings the audience so soulfully into theme of performance and thus sets the mood for what is to come. She did it with perfect aplomb at the performance of Satan at Freedom Park. Also at The Convenient Asshole, Tamara winsomely woos the audience into vortex of the expository performance, with her alluring voice.


In this article:
Joy Isi Bewaji
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