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Duke of Shomolu Production tells the Lagos story in ‘Oba Eshugbayi’


Actor, Yemi Shodimu (left); Executive Producer, Oba Eshugbayi, Joseph Edgar; Actress, Yinka Davies and Director Maryland Mall, Laide Agboola during the press briefing on Oba Eshugbayi Stage play in Lagos. PHOTO: AYODELA ADENIRAN

It was Jamaican-born political leader, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur and orator, Marcus Garvey Jr., who said that a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.

This, perhaps, suggest why Duke of Shomolu Productions, a recently formed theatre and media production company, will be cerebrating the yuletide season with an epic play, ‘Oba Eshugbayi’.

It is a story of tribulation, emancipation and romance. It brings together the very rich cultural heritage of Lagos and the very colourful and insightful traditions of the Efik people who inhabit  the banks of the River Cross in South Eastern Nigeria.

The play will feature a fine mix of veteran  and fresh talents. The actor and TV producer, Wale Macaulay, will be playing his illustrious forebear – Herbert Macaulay, while Femi Branch, one of the most charismatic actors around, plays Oba Eshugbayi.

Other include, Yinka Davies, Offiong Anthony and Ayobami Shodimu, daughter of the actor and showbiz impresario. She would be making her stage debut at the MUSON Centre, this December. She is expected to bring in a fresh and beautifully enticing heat with her romantic liaison with Tony’s character in Oba Eshugbayi.

According to Joseph Edgar, an investment banker and theatre producer, “the play is the latest in its Heritage Series, where epic productions with strong historical leanings will continue to be staged in a strong bid to tell our story through performance.”

He continued, “the Duke of Shomolu Production platform has been set up to be the home of these productions. ‘The Isale Eko’ series, which is the debut production, has been seen by a combined 15,000 people over its two seasons showing and would be coming back to Tera Kulture next February due to popular demand.”

Edgar said, “in the last four years, we’ve had series of production, all geared towards telling our stories, through performance. We decided to key into the hunger in the Nigerian theatre going crowd for our indigenous stories, that’s why we started with the ‘Isale Eko’ franchise, which was massively received, and that performance interested the telecom’s company, MTN, which signed a one year contract with us, and the MTN Foundation is also supporting Oba Eshugbayi.”

He said, “Maryland Mall has shown significant interest in supporting the art and the entertainment industry, and this is the second time we are working on big projects together, they played a vital role in ‘Isale Eko’. Most of the people that came to see the show alluded to the fact that they heard about it from the mall.”

On his part, Shodimu said, “the honest truth is that we are still far from what is real, but it’s a bold attempt to take theatre from the level at which it was to another level, we are still on a journey. It may shock you that the total cost of the project may not be up to what an actor is paid somewhere out there but here, it a huge amount, with a lot of sacrifice.”

Speaking on why the mall decided to support the play, Director, Maryland Mall, Laide Agboola, said; “Edgar is a multi-character personality, and what you get from him is pure art, and it’s worth supporting. Not everybody has that kind of artistic flair, everyone that has followed him will definitely see that character in him, it brings us to the point where we at Maryland partnered with him in a way to help us bridge the gap between an old cultural environment that we need to transient to our kids and make sure that those stories are not forgotten.”

Written and directed by William Benson and executive produced by Joseph Edgar and Olisa Adibua with Yemi Shodimu and Mofoluwake Oriyomi Edgar as producers, ‘Oba Eshugbayi’ comes up December 24, 25 and 26, 2018 at the Agip Recital hall of the Muson centre, Lagos.

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