In Ada The Country, plight of women takes centre stage
From the distance, drums are throbbing. The beats stop and curtain draws for acts such as, Patience Ozokwor, Joke Silva, Kate Henshaw, Chioma ‘Chigul’ Omeruah, Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju, Bimbo Akintola, Oludara Shyngle, Ade Laoye and Oluchi Odii to tell their stories.
Simple, swift narration, so to say.
But Ada The Country tells a complex story. It is not in any way swift. Staged at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos, recently, it tells a story that is akin to that of Shen Te, the good woman of Setzuan.
However, Ada, played by Kate Henshaw, is not a prostitute or a free girl, but she just has a character that is extremely good and nice for the modern man. She only realises this after losing her child.
In need of self-discovery, Ada goes to the village, where she stays with her mum (Patience Ozokwor). Ada discovers that she had lived all her life for others.
Her friends’ visit later, opens up a conversation that dominates the musical show — women’s pains and sorrows.
One after the other, the women discover there is a common rope that ties them together and everyone is fighting hard to keep up with life’s challenges.
One of Ada’s sisters, played by Chioma Omeruah, is a divorcee. She shares the story of her freedom after quitting her marriage. She now enjoys her life knowing she isn’t living it to please the society.
Another character, played by Ade Laoye, opens up on the burden she has lived with since her university days, when she had to sleep with her lecturer for marks. This moment of truth comes when Ada’s youngest sister, played by Oluchi Odii, starts missing classes because of sexual harassment from her lecturers.
Though a feminist play, the only man in the production, Ada’s husband, Ayo Ayoola, brings a balance to the message.
According to the founder, Doyenne Circle, Marian Ogaziechi, the play “connects us through the shared experience of community and family. The musical offers a kaleidoscope of reflections and explorations of the Nigerian female experience, themes of their struggles and views of the world they live in. The culture of Nigeria resonates in each and every scene, highlighting the very things that makes us a people.”
For award-winning writer and poet, Titilope Sonuga, while the time for listening to women stories is now. “We had to think about what kind of stories we want to tell and how we want to tell them.
“We started to think about the casts, the generational differences, what stories are more important to them and the experiences that are peculiar to the age groups, and from then, I started writing in a way that I could connect them to one another. The casting was done deliberately to ensure that they could sing and sing well, so, it presented the actors in a different light.”
Although it took months to get the script ready, Sonuga stressed that her personal experiences including those from other women around her were put into writing the script, which is her first ever stage play.