What Men Want … A betrayal of trust
It is a universal truism that the male-folk across the globe grapple with issues of business, politics, family, multiple sex partners and crucially, how to sustain dominion in a space where women have found platforms to express their innate potential and have even become breadwinners in some homes. Apart from business challenges, women are troubled when their husbands, despite their wealth and healthy children, engage in infidelity and multiple sex relationships in violation of their matrimonial oaths, especially when the wife is putting in her best to see their marriage work.
It is this capricious attitude of some men that pushes some women to want to misbehave, with some going as far as cursing their husbands. The usual excuse for husbands, who break their wives’ hearts by cheating on them, is to either blame monogamy for their behaviour or conclude that ‘one woman is never enough for an average man.’
This issue of fidelity in marriages came to the fore in OneGang Theatre’s presentation of What Men Want at the Peace Garden Hall, Okoko, Lagos. Written by Adelarin Awotedu, the play was directed by Adewale Johnson.
In showcasing multiple themes like marital infidelity, family squabbles, randy husband and others, What Men Want steps up the gender debate. It opens with Morenikeji (Adaku Nnadi) reminiscing about her past, when her husband, Kunle and her, used to be contented with themselves, while the children were away at school. But her disposition suddenly changes. She recalls how Kunle (Taiye Olulu) lately described her, as passé and so stays away from home and now keeps late nights.
She tries to manage the situation; their children are doing well in schools abroad. That is when Morenikeji gets the shock of her life, when Susan (Cecilia Ogoro) walks in to say she is Kunle’s new wife. Though enraged, Morenikeji initially takes the matter lightly, but Susan would not let her be. Gradually, conflict ensues between Morenikeji and Susan.
Believing she knows how to satisfy Kunle’s sexual desires, Susan the sassy lady begins to taunt the first wife, who never fails to tongue-lash her too for marrying a man old enough to be her father.
Intimidated by Susan’s dress sense, Morenikeji puts up a fight to dress nicely to win back her husband’s love. She, however, gives up the fight when she realises she is no match for Susan, when it comes to such games. She takes solace in the admonishing adage: ‘the cane that chased away the first wife is being reserved for the second wife!’
The two belligerent women later come to an accord, when they discover that their husband is planning to take a third wife; they then plot to stop him. While Morenikeji handles the matter more maturely, Susan gets hot, threatens to meet their husband’s secret lover and tear her into pieces.
Hell, however, is let loose when Susan finally meets Sidi, the 60-year old woman Kunle is going out with. Susan attacks Sidi, but she is no match for Sidi, who gives her the beaten of her life. Apart from being older than the first wife, Sidi runs a local restaurant where Kunle regularly eats. She is also known for having her seven children to different men. Susan wonders what on earth could have attracted Kunle to such an irresponsible old woman with abominable sexual history!
Simple and short, the 45-minute play has no male cast. In fact, the randy Kunle is cast as an ‘absentee husband.’ What Men Want is a rhetoric pose with multifaceted responses. The cast shows remarkable sense of perfect interpretation of their roles. Also, the playwright allows the characters develop organically as they rise from the simple and reach a crescendo, where Susan is beaten blue-black and she is made to learn the hard lesson: never to dictate to an Africa man the number of wives he should marry!
This systematic approach of unveiling the identity of the two wives comes in parts: firstly, Susan is in control in the early few scenes, where she bullies the first wife. The second and concluding part sees Morenikeji dictating the pace. This time, she does not take her pound of flesh on Susan, but consoles and welcomes her to her home. She makes her realise that the only way to win is to summit, to accept her fate as the second wife, with more women on the way.
But the play goes against the grain of feminist rhetoric, as they would find fault with its thematic thrust: what gives the man the guts to marry more wives at the expense of the woman?
The play depicts the African woman, as accommodating, tolerant and a homemaker. It also projects the African man, as a polygamist, who asserts his authority over his wives without minding the consequences of his actions.
However, the core lesson is that women should fortify their hearts against betrayal because no woman is immune to men’s sweet talk and other antics they employ to get the woman they want. In bringing out the key lessons, the director used cool and street music that did not only touch the emotional core of the audience, as it highlights the pains and sorrow associated with betrayal.
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