Wat’s dis all about? A hype of citizens despondency
The Lagos Country Club and Ibadan Playhouse in collaboration with OneSix Production, thrilled live theatre enthusiasts with another of its presentations, Wat’s Dis All About?
Presented at the Lagos Country Club’s Amphitheatre, Ikeja, last Sunday, the play, an adaptation of WOZA Albert (Rise Up, Albert) x-rays the agonies Nigerians daily pass through to survive the hard economic situation, security challenges and the various government policies that have made things tough for the man in the street.
Originally presented in South Africa to tell the story of the inhuman treatment meted out to blacks by the minority white government during the apartheid regime, the Ibadan Playhouse adapts the play to reflect the Nigerian realities, infusing some local street vibes that would make anybody watching it for the first time to take it for a Nigerian play.
The two-man cast directed by Oluwafiropo Ewenla opens with Dede, a police officer (Simileoluwa Hassan) chasing Bobo (Toyin Oshinaike) for being in possession of marijuana, a substance banned by the government.
Employing the drama-in-a-drama technique the duet plays out different scenes of human life from religion to politics, street trading, hooliganism, commercial vehicle drivers and others, showcasing deceit, suffering, betrayal, struggle, intrigues and other forms of maladjusted behaviours that could truncate the smooth running of the society.
In all facets of the play, the people hinge their hope on religion, believing that when the Messiah comes all their sufferings and the evils of the society will cease. In the counsel of Alexander Pope, which says: ‘blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed,’ the people expected so much from the Messiah that when he personally presents himself to them on individual grounds, they merely ask for what that would take them out of their sufferings; selfish and immediate needs.
Satirically telling the Nigerian story, the duet display a high level of proficiency in line delivery, body language and comically interpreting their roles, which further make the audience to see the diverse Nigerian problems, as tragicomedy that would soon come to an end.
Aside the fun and thrill, Wat’s Dis All About? remains a clarion call for the citizens to rise up to their responsibility, identify what they want and go for it. The play highlights the weakness of individualism, calling for a collective action to fight societal evils and institute order. Here, the play asks a critical question: ‘If Jesus Christ (the Messiah) returns to Nigeria, today, what would the ordinary Nigerian require of him?’
Though, this question gives Wat’s Dis All About? away as a Christian play, especially as it uses Jesus Christ, the Messiah, as the Superman that would deliver the oppressed from his tormentors, the weak from the strong and the citizens from the various government propagandas, it, however, shows the people despondency and eager for a positive change in the polity and in the economy.
And from the people’s responses to this vital question, the play shows how the people, despite their need for help, do not really know the area they really need help, as they based their responses on trivial things such as commercial drivers asking for more passengers, traders wanting more customers, passengers wanting orderliness at the airport and others, when key issues that would put an end to their needs are not mentioned.
Taking a critical look at the underlying messages, the play no doubt portrays the Messiah in two lights –– a political figure and an invincible spiritual leader.As a political figure, it depicts him as one that would fight all the injustices in the society, provides the people all they need and change the society for good, just the Jews viewed his first coming.
The second, as a spiritual leader, presents him as having overwhelming powers to resurrect Nigeria’s past nationalists from Herbert Macaulay to Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Tafawa Balewa, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Aminu Kano and others, to resuscitate their policies and move the country forward.
Despite the satire, humour and the street jabs that puts the play in the superlative, the storyline moving from the sensual to celestial puts one on its toes, as to the possibility of the Messiah being arrested and imprisoned by an earthly government, whose activities are not only questionable, but condemned by the people.
Here, the director creates a conflict. It would have been better to end the play in a suspense, imprisoning the Messiah portrays him as a political leader, thus underplaying his divine being as a farce.
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