Snapshots… Showcase Of A People’s Will To Change
Lagos, land of aquatic splendour and opportunities, will continue to attract attention, especially with its fast-rising mega-city status. Apart from this, its openness to strangers and dynamic economy, irrespective of its long history of being a Yoruba city makes it endearing. Perhaps, it was in recognition of this that the play Snapshots was showcased recently at the Lagos Black Heritage Festival 2015. The hilarious comedy deployed a collage of activities in the city to tell the story of Nigeria. The play is a melodrama that tells the story of being, the things that make living in the Lagos thick and also the sensitive things that can easily derail the country.
It was staged at Freedom Park, Lagos. Snapshots, written and directed by Bode Sowande, opens with the town crier singing to the people of Araromi, a slum area of the city, to wake up from their sleep. With the songs, the town crier urges the people to work hard and achieve their goals in life. He paints a horrifying picture of what would likely meet the indolent in society.
Sunup, the landlord of the major house in the slum, Baba Gentle, walks aimlessly onto stage, but looks worried. He has just lost a fortune and, to add salt to his injury, he hears that his house has been marked for demolition. Information making the rounds has it that the entire slum would be demolished for the new Urban Master Plan of the state government. But Baba Gentle and other inhabitants of Araromi swear that the plan would not see the light of the day. They swear to make it go the way others before went.
However, to save his family house first from demolition, the landlord goes to his elder brother, Agba, a land speculator and an influential person in the politics of Lagos, for help. But he soon finds out that his elder brother, Agba, is as helpless as he and other Araromi inhabitants.
At the said day of the demolition, the inhabitants of Araromi, acting in concert, abduct and drug the driver of the bulldozer. Little do they know that the Urban Plans has been modified to turn the ghetto into a tourism and cultural destination, with modern facilities. By this change, everyone is free to live and carry on his or her economic and social activities as usual.
Armed with this new knowledge, they soon realise that they have shot themselves in the foot; they release the driver, who is still suffering from the effects of the drug administered on him and as such could not operate the bulldozer. This puts the project on hold pending when he regains consciousness, as no one else within the limited time frame could operate the bulldozer.
Highlighting themes like unity, perseverance, impunity, civil servants’ high handedness among others, the play shows how communication gap between leaders and the ruled leads to both parties not trusting each other, which to a large extent leads to the people working at cross-purposes, with little result being achieved. This creates a lot of acrimony in the polity, making government believe that the people do not support its policy, and in turn, uses the instruments of coercion to achieve what dialogue should ordinarily achieve. It also brings to the fore the issue of government being too far from the people, which gives some powerful citizens the opportunity to play god.
Snapshots also reveals the extent to which the oppressed can go to even scores, especially when they are pushed to the wall. Inherent in this, is a warning to those in power: they should never think that because they have the machinery of government in their control over the poor, as represented by the inhabitants of Araromi, that the people cannot rise against them. Lastly, the play calls for a need to first understand government’s policy before criticising it.
However, despite its good storyline, Snapshots is long, complex and a bit difficult to understand. This complexity makes it boring, as it jumbles disparate themes and ideas together.
Here, lighting would have been most appropriate to explicate some of the sub-plots, particularly in giving expression to the different moods. Also, it would have been proper to use lightings to flashback some of the emotional scenes Lady Gaga was creating with her stories, which was totally lost because everything was flat.
However, it should be noted that for a festival with large following like LBH Week, any group coming to present a play should be prepared for the show, but the cast of Snapshots showed otherwise. As it could be seen that the major characters wore the same costumes for different roles, at assumed different places, which showed they were not ready to tell their story the way it should be. This further blurred the storyline, making the actors to depend more on description to convince the audience instead of acting out their parts.