Beyond The Garb… a call on self-censorship
Man as an insatiate being always expect the best from every member of the society, while most times he does not give his best to the same society he demands the best from. Many at times, he even fails to realise that what he gets from the society, including the people, is part of what he has contributed to it. This thought was brought to the fore in the play, Beyond The Garb.
The play interrogates topical issues that have changed our work ethos, disconnected the people from their cultural values and created a society where everyone is in a rushed to achieve success in a big way.
Centres on Orurimeto, a rustic community, the people prepare 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, meets 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 to manage the economy. As the villagers blame the city people, the city people in turn condemn the city people for being backward and not capable to lead a sophisticated lifestyle.
While this buck passing goes on, Barr. Larmie (Olamide Agunpopo) calls everyone –– the city dwellers and the rural people –– to take a second look at their stands 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 an America’s bestseller, Spencer Johnson, who says: “Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.” The people buy the lawyers 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 dialogues, humour, songs and dance to x-ray the decadence of the Nigerian society right from the universities, to the security agencies, politics, governance and the industry. It showcases howling anguish that the people that are meant to take care of the people have meted on those they are to look after. The ruler and the ruled.
Presenting the play now that the country is fighting corruption is timely and also enables the audience to appreciate and relate with the multiple themes, which border on honesty, hard work, deceit, get-rich-quick syndrome and others.
The casts also did their best by effectively interpreting their roles, bringing out the traits of each character. And of a special note to this, is the police officer, Callistus (Samuel Animasaun), who played the good, the bad and the ugly of the police force, bring out how members of the security agency carry on their trade. His performance breathes life into other roles.
However, as good as the play may seem, it has its own shortcomings.
The looters identified in the play were not punished; in fact, there was no sign that Orurimeto has any form of punishment for them. This not a true representation of a rustic community, which has different forms of punishment for people, considered to be anti-people or have done something to set the community back. However, this could be a metaphor to express some of the happenings in Nigeria, where the big thieves go unpunished, while the common ones punished — killed or given long- term prison sentence.
Communities, which Orurimeto personifies have punishments ranging from excommunication, to death, denial of having any chieftaincy titles to even forced to leave the village for those that have gone against their common rules. Though not expressed, it would have been better, at least, for this to be mentioned in the passing, because every African society has its different forms of carrot and stick approach to issues. Failing to do this, one might unknowingly be saying that African countries or communities encourage sycophants, avarice and embezzlers.
Another flaw is the presence of the goat on stage. What was the significance of the goat there? Its presence was totally meaningless, as it adds no value to any of the scene; it is an abstract. The director should have taken it off the stage, when the traders were leaving. From the look of things, the goat was supposed to be presented for sale in the market, but that part did not take place.
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 piece of information that could mar their production.
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