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Tuti… Remedying the wrongs of yesteryears

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A scene from the play

A scene from the play

There is no better way to encapsulate duplicity than to use the words of Warren Wendel Wiersbe, an American writer and cleric, who said, ‘truth without love is brutality and love without truth is hypocrisy.” No matter where and how hypocrisy manifests itself, its aim is usually evil. It kills those that embrace it.

Word Productions’ presentation of Tuti tellingly bears out the truism. It opens with Tuti’s father (Michael Adekunle), a lawyer, soliloquising and reminiscing on his youthful adventures, and falls down as a result of asthmatic attack. Just as he struggles between life and death, the daughter enters and helps with his inhaler.

When Tuti’s father recovers, rather than thank his daughter, he blames her for not allowing him to pass on to join his late wife. He desires to forget the pains and shame that have befallen him and his family.

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Tuti (Alice Uloko) then confronts her father in strong words on how he killed her mother through his licentious and devil-may-care attitude. She blames him for making her (Tuti, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN) to develop thick skin for men, an attitude that makes her treat and regard her husband a little above a house help.

While the argument lasts, Tuti’s father reveals to his daughter that he had made a vow to God, that he has not been able pay for years. He reveals to her how he stole church money in the past to lead a flamboyant lifestyle and maintain the woman of his life.

Tuti recalls how the mother complained of not being loved, and died suffering from the shame brought by her father, who, as church treasurer, converted part of the church’s money for personal use. Infuriated, Tuti slaps her father. She compels him to tell her who the woman was. But just then, the sickly man begins another story within a story.

As fate would have it, he explains how he stole the money to fund Tuti’s education and her lavish lifestyle abroad. When she realises that she was that woman the father was doing everything to please, Tuti regrets hitting her father and blames her mother instead for being naïve despite her high education – a doctoral degree.

To make amends for her behaviour and so her father would not continue to bear the burden of guilt and shame, Tuti, now a wealthy and popular lawyer, pays off the debt her father owes the church. Gladdened that the trying period is over, Tuti’s father strolls out of the house only to be knocked down by a hit-and-run-driver.

Tuti is a window into the rotten underbelly of the church, and unfolds the saying that the nearer a carnal man appears to be to the church, the farther he is from God. The play highlights the politics, intrigues, greed, unhealthy rivalry, hypocrisy and thievery going on the church. Like every father, Tuti’s father’s actions are borne out of the love he has for his family, as he never wanted his only daughter and child to feel like a dark horse among her mates and before his contemporaries.

Written by Ahmed Yerima, the play deals on topical issues and was presented in a form easy to relate with. The director uses commonplace street vibes, songs and dance to drive it home.

However, in spite of it being well-crafted, the director, in interpreting the story, seems to have forgotten that he was presenting it in a live theatre. He prolonged the songs and dance unnecessarily and stretched the play to two hours. Although interesting and revealing, he needed to be mindful of the audience’s patience, as they may think twice before attending his next show.

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Though Uloko and Adekun (Tuti and her father) showed mastery in their performances by making their emotions felt by the audience, they, however, over-dramatise their roles and it further added to the length of time. The director ought to have been conscious of time and avoid being repetitive.

Also, the scene with Tuti shouting back at her father and going to the tabooed extent of slapping him because he had affairs with another woman means that the play was not written for an African audience for which polygamy is part of the accepted lifestyle. Other quaint aspects of the play include the wife asking her husband to babysit the children, while she is away; a daughter drinking and smoking with the father as well dancing tango with him. The play shows a sharp contrast to the African culture and a departure from the Christian norm on which it is foregrounded. True, it reveals some of the decadence of society, it does not really tell the African story.

Nevertheless, it is good to note that Tuti’s father, despite being knocked down by a hit-and-run driver, dies confessing his past wrongs and gives his daughter the privilege to understand why he did what he did – all for her sake!


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