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Shift Lemme Faint!… A farcical portrait of Nigeria on stage

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A scene from the play

How do Nigerians behave? What is so uniquely Nigerian that is worth celebrating or condemning? Specifically, how do Nigerians relate in their religious beliefs, political culture, especially the thieving type that is now so entrenched? Before the dawn of the millennia, how were Nigerian children brought up and how was sex among unmarried, young adults viewed? What informed such social relationships and how were the nuances navigated? How do Nigerians react to institutions that deliver public services, like the power company?

A thousand and one questions like these were what formed the subject matter of the stage play, Shift Lemme Faint!, which was performed recently in Lagos. It hits the stage in Abuja this weekend.

Produced by Lydia Idakula Sobogun and directed by Kenneth Uphopho, the play hits at the many imbecilities that often attend some of Nigeria’s social behaviours, which, sadly, are responsible for some of the malaise plaguing the country and its perennial under-development. But like all farcical plays, Shift Lemme Faint! presents these imbecilities in such a hilarious manner that hoists up national foibles for all to take a good look at for a possible re-engineering of society.

Shift Lemme faint!, an episodic drama, was delivered in a hilarious manner that got the audience deeply hooked up to the narrative of their own daily lives by an irrepressible five-man cast made up of Omoye Uzamere, Akah Nnani, Beverly Naya, Daniel Effiong and Najite Dede at Terra Kulture Arena last Sunday.

The play opens in an orthodox church scene, with its solemn songs, which then morph into Pentecostal ones with their fast-paced, vigorous singing and dance style and eventually the Celestial/Aladura type, with their hypnotic, body contorting movements that leave worshippers drained before the service is over. Although various church mannerisms are hinted at, it stops short of hitting hard at what the church has become, the sheer hypocrisy and vain gloriousness that sometimes charactise how Nigerians practice their faith.

It then turns on Nigerian citizens, who have willfully abdicated their exalted ‘office of citizens’ and now shamelessly pander to politicians and their wily tricks. Rather than hold politicians accountable for the misgovernance that the country is mired in, the citizens not only exonerate these thieves of their crimes, but also applaud them because of tribal and other primordial affiliations. After all, the politician has gone to bring back their own share of the ‘national cake.’ It is such imbecility that emboldens these politicians to their reckless acts of brigandage. Ironically, politicians’ brazenness does not attract the same outrage as a petty thief’s, who may have stolen yam, with a mob soon setting up court with a tyre around his neck, a matchstick and a blaze!

Leading this part was Naya, who, however, peppered her delivery with a fast-flowing British ascent. She toned it down somewhat in her next lead, particularly how elders in Africa sometimes abuse the respect accorded their age, which doesn’t stop them from cheating younger people.

What of Nigeria’s perennial power outages? When there is power supply more than three hours at a stretch, what is the reaction? There is a certain anxiety it generates because the norm is outages, not the wished-for constant supply. And if it goes more than 10 hours, an entire neighbourhood might march to PHCN’s office to ask for darkness instead. That is how traumatised Nigerians have become, so much so that regular power supply is the abnormal situation rather than something to celebrate!

What about children’s upbringing, especially in cities like Lagos? Devoid of open spaces to play, children only have balconies to ride their bicycles and no playgrounds to expend their energies. And the fears are many: fear of germs, bruised arms or knees, kidnappers, ritualists, child molesters, etc.

And how did parents relate to their children, especially the girl-child, who has come of age before the millennia? A staccato of don’ts pepper the relationship with boys. And you ask, how did mum and dad meet up? Was it always the expected process, outcomes, without any deviant behaviour? Why the strict censure of their children? “It’s all for your own good,” is the standard retort.

Shift Lemme Faint! also had a good dose of music to spice up a performance that had the audience in a fit of nostalgia, especially the older ones, who saw a dramatization of their own life’s experiences, especially their younger days. Leading the music performance was soul singer, Bez. He struck up no fewer than five songs that got the audience singing along. Also right in the thick of performance, the actors performed songs like Prince Nico Mbaga’s and a few others.

Shift Lemme Faint! is the perfect family drama. Through its episodic style, every viewer has something to take away from it. It is a piece of art speaking to everyone. Credit goes to the writers, producer and director of the play for crafting an engaging, enjoyable performance.



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