What men want…a strain on the African woman
It is a universal truism that while men across the globe are grappling with issues of business, politics, family, multiple sex partners; and how to sustain their masculinity, women are looking for platforms to express their innate energies, just as some have become breadwinners in most homes.
Apart from business challenges, women are troubled when their husbands, despite their wealth and healthy children, engage in extramarital affairs, especially when the wife is doing her best to make the marriage work. It is this capricious attitude of some men that pushes some women over the edge. Some even go to the extent of cursing their husbands. Those who can’t curse their husbands for breaking their hearts or cheating on them see monogamy as a relative term in the traditional African sense, and they merely conclude, “one woman is never enough for the average man”.
Live Theatre On Sunday recently engaged its audience on these issues when it performed What Men Want at Unity Centre, GRA, Ikeja. Written by Adelarin Awotedu with Adenugba Oluwanishola as executive producer, the play steps up the gender debate, using multiple themes like marital infidelity, family squabble, randy husband and others.
It opens with Morenikeji (Morolayo Fakeye), reminiscing about her past, when she and Kunle, her husband, used to have fun times, while the children were away at school. But her disposition suddenly changes, as she recalls how Kunle now comes home late, a situation that disturbs her. Morenikeji gets the shock of her life when Susan (Mary Ann Eziekwe) walks in to say she is Kunle’s new wife. Though enraged, Morenikeji initially takes the matter lightly, believing Susan would leave after some time. But like a leech, she latches onto Kunle. She relocates to Kunle’s home and begins to make herself comfortable. Gradually, conflict ensues between Morenikeji, the first wife, and Susan, the would-be second wife.
With the belief that she knows how to satisfy Kunle’s manly desires, Susan 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 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 game. She takes solace in the adage that says, ‘the cane used to chase away the first wife is also reserved for the second wife.’
Gradually, the two women later come to an understanding. When they hear that their husband is planning to take a third wife, they plot to stop him. While Morenikeji handles the matter more maturely, Susan gets all worked up, and demanded 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, who gives her the beating of her life. Apart from being older than the first wife, Sidi runs a local restaurant where Kunle eats regularly. She is also known for giving her seven daughters to different men.
With infidelity as main theme, the playwright allows the character development to rise from simple to crescendo and then drops. This is expressed in Susan, who is beaten black and blue by her husband’s older lover; she is forced to learn the hard way.
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, Morenikeji. 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 to realise that the only way to win is to submit, to accept her fate as the second wife and look forward to seeing more women come in as their husband’s wives.
Although the play portrays the heartbreak some African women experience in their marriages, it, however, fails to say what suddenly makes Kunle to dabble into polygamy. Failure to do this means collectively passing judgment on the African man.
Simple and short, the 45-minute play has no male cast. In fact, the randy Kunle is ‘an absentee husband,’ the more reason the playwright tends towards being feminist, trying to hype the challenges women go through in marriage.
However, the core lesson is that women should prepare against betrayal, because no woman is immune to men’s sweet talk and other antics employed to get them do their bidding.