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With Spectacle, National Troupe Makes Unity Easy

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
12 April 2015   |   4:45 am
THERE is frenetic drumming at the background. Suddenly, light comes on stage. Then, a litany of figures in white and black take vantage positions, as the music from the drum ensemble fades out.

NationalTroupeTHERE is frenetic drumming at the background. Suddenly, light comes on stage. Then, a litany of figures in white and black take vantage positions, as the music from the drum ensemble fades out.

It is a choir bustling with life and its conductor, Emmanuel Adejumo, that locate action, raising different songs, whipping up outpourings of songs, which blend with the motive of the composition.

There’s interplay of ethnic medley —Itsekiri, Efik, Ibibio, Urhobo, Yoruba, Tiv and Igbo — before the first transition ends.

At first glance, it will be mistaken for a dance drama piece. But it is not really a drama with recognisable characters.

However, the feast of dance and music gives a hint of what to expect in the almost an hour and-a-half engaging choreo-music of the National Troupe of Nigeria.

It is difficult not to admire Spectacle: its fascinating genetic make, which coalesce all the genres of art — the plastic, the performing and the literary.

Structured into four parts — Nigerian Folksongs, Ifenkilii (Spectacles), Contemporary Music, Solo Performances, Duets, Group Performances, Musical Parody, Traditional Music Ensemble and Ajodun — the framing device of Spectacle weaves different skits to pass a message of unity in a global space.

Spectacle is a musical folk-theatre. The thematic thrust is national unity. However, the conceptual framework does not lie in the exposition of lyrics paying lip service to the unity of the people but in the unification of dissimilar artistic backgrounds and materials into harmonious art form within real-time creative space.

The two fold concept of the creative unity lies in the fusion of the different artistic elements in performance- the unity of the elements of the African performative stage on one hand and on the other hand, the wholesome representation of our diverse cultural heritage on the national stage through the use of music, songs, dance, narratives, masks, chants etc.

With Adejumo’s All I care (Ololufe), Frank and Chioma Okiemute’s contemporary dance, given breath of freshness to Bette Midler’s God is watching us, Kiss Daniel’s Woju playing at the background and Wake Up by Flavour featuring Wande Coal also resonating healthy rhythms and Tunji Oyelana’s song, Enia bi aporo, Spectacle is a convergent of actions that are variegated, but with the best objective. In fact, are colourful and exuberant, inadvertently, plotting unity of the art forms.

It is a wholesome representation of Nigerian diverse cultural heritage on stage through the use of music, songs, dance and drama.

The beauty of the production is the effective use of theatre languages: masquerade (Gelede and Adamma), smoke, costumes, characterisation, light, Sato drum, set and movement.

From the riverine dance, which moves from the zero to the straight line and the often-curving, water flowing movement. The entire space is used up, even the gangway, wings and orchestra pit.

The final part, which is titled Ajodun, tilts towards the celebration of the troupe as the country’s premier dance outfit. With dances from the nooks and crannies of the country, the traditional is celebrated.

The NTN’s Artistic Director, Akin Adejuwon, who spoke with the media after the production, lamented the situation, where a great number of Nigerians distance themselves from theatre.

Adejuwon said, “to correct this indifference, the troupe always stage performance
According to him, NTN was established to serve people by educating and informing the populace through theatre.

“We are originating the process of theatre which has been heavily westernised in orientation by bringing to us iconic performances that are told by others,” he said. “We have decided to rewrite that by bringing performances that encompasses theatre in all ramifications like music, dance and drama which NTN supposed to do.

So, for festive seasons it has been a tradition to bring performances that will edify the people. We need to do exhibitions of what we have and also tour the country to foster unity.”

Adejuwon, however, said paucity of funds was limiting what NTN intended to do in carrying out its set objectives.
Also speaking, the Director of Drama, Josephine Igberase, said the idea behind Spectacle was to celebrate the risen Jesus Christ.

“We want the audience to be entertained, enjoy themselves, laugh, praise God and go home and relax,” he said. “Every show the NTN does, has a message for the audience to take home to live in peace and harmony irrespective of our diversity. There is room for everybody to accommodate one another, unity is what we emphasise mostly.”

In his inaugural chat with culture stakeholders in Lagos, Adejuwon reiterated the Troupe’s mission to reinvigorate and reposition for effective and efficient performing arts service delivery. He had said, “we shall intensify efforts aimed at popularising the rich cultural heritage of this country through performances that are of high artistic standard.We are poised, though; we are often being stretched to the limits due to limited resources, to execute productions as at when due. We are also to be theatrically responsive to pressing national and international issues and to provide a vibrant forum for citizens to brainstorm and regenerate topical issues on the performing arts.”

He also promised that the troupe would organise two festivals, one, the Domestic Festival of Performing Arts, the other, an Abuja International Festival of Performing Arts. For the DOFEPA (Domestic Festival of Performing Arts), whose maiden edition is planned for this year, while subsequent editions will be rotated among the states.

The Abuja International Festival of Performing Arts (AIFEPA) will have its first outing in Abuja in 2016. The National Troupe of Nigeria will also sustain the hosting of the Annual Public Lecture and Play Reading Series, which have helped to bridge the gap between theatre practice and dialectics.

He also said, “our mission is also to revive and reinvent the Artiste in Residence Programme as a way of reaching out to accomplished artistes, who have made outstanding contributions to the development of the arts. Similarly, we shall continue with the well-established Secondment Programme of the core artiste body of the Troupe.

However, we shall allow for even more talents (freelance artistes) to come in on a short term basis so that they can benefit from these continuous collaborative exercise, which has proven to impart greater skills, techniques and knowledge to artistes in the different areas of the theatre as a result of the high caliber of professionals and experts in the troupe.”

The Troupe traditionally receives a number of performance invitations from within and outside the country, and “we hope to honour these invitations by serving uniquely packaged performances befitting the new vision and composition of the National Troupe of Nigeria.

Although the challenges before us are quite enormous, we are poised to tackle all of them within the limits of our resources. We count on your support and hope that the good virtues of patience and understanding will come to play.”