Brother Jero … Enriching Self In The Name Of God
We cannot forget Euripides, the Greek tragedian, who in Orestes, one of his classical plays said, “when one with honeyed words, but evil mind persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.”
Live Theatre on Sunday might have seen the essence of this truism, when the group presented The Trials of Brother Jero, a play the protagonist uses religious and rhetoric to hoodwink the people doing his biddings. Staged at the Unity Centre, GRA, Ikeja, the play using the Christian religion humorously mirrors how man’s desires make him dance to the whims of gullible religious leaders, who prophesies to be genuine men of God.
Opening with Brother Jeroboam, a self-proclaimed prophet, who evangelises by the beach in a small city, ringing the bell and advertising his services in a latent, but persistent manner, the scene goes on to where prophet tells the audience how he comes into the business of using God’s name to make money, saying he was born with long dreadlocks, a sign that he would be a prophet.
The second scene sees Chume, a messenger in the civil service; bring his wife Amope, to someone that owes her some money. It is later revealed that Chume is Jero’s staunch member, and is set to be his successor. Jero builds illusion that diverts Chume’s urge to beat his wife, who nags at him always.
Jero owes Amope some money, but he is at first oblivious that Amope is that wife Chume wants to beat. Knowing this, he allows Chume to beat her. But Chume learns that Jero is owing his wife some money before hitting her, and he becomes angry.
While he seeks for Brother Jero to sought out the issue, the latter moves on recruiting another follower, the local Member of Parliament. For her closeness and obedience to the prophet, Chume begins to suspect the wife of sleeping with the prophet. Not bothered about the couple, Jero entices the new member with prophesy of the latter becoming Minister of Works.
Jero evades Chume, and the play ends with the assumption that Bro Jero gets rid of Chume with the help of his newfound member. Directed by Oluwanishola Adenugba, Jero’s status as a prophet is portrayed more as an occupation than avocation and the act of evangelising more as a business than a mission.
Jero, in breaking the fourth wall, shares his ‘entrepreneurial course of action’ to the audience, blatantly revealing the trade-like nature of religion. He, even, says in one line that he feels like a shopkeeper going to his shop each time he goes to his portion of the beach; this he further shows when he explains how the prophets compete among themselves for a good place along the beach.
He also highlights that they use dance-girls to entice passersby to be their members. Most interestingly, he reveals his method of keeping the followers, mentioning that the key is to deny them of what they yearn most for; this he did by not allowing Chume to hit his wife. Knowing that if Chume does, he would be fulfilled and ceases to be his member.
Not only does this show that religion thrives in the misery of its followers, it also reveals that religion is postmodern in nature. Jero equally depicts in his act of attracting the Member of Parliament that the prophet-trade is dynamic, and with the right investment in followers, the business can grow larger and stronger.
Throughout the play, Jero far from being an emotionless villain is portrayed as a human with problems of his own, most of which have something to do with his career as prophet. Early on, it is mentioned that his biggest problem is women, a very self-centred problem. In one scene, he prays to fight against the temptation evoked by a passing young girl, remembering the ‘curse’ (which in a way becomes a business jinx) his old mentor made against him. In order to succeed without problems in the trade, therefore, Jero needs to control himself.
He ultimately is able to, and the play ends to his advantage. Chume might be viewed as the victim of the play, if not the moral hero, because Jero and Amope are the ones who play the role of villains. Yet again, the connection is made: Chume is made to suffer by both Jero’s religious self-interest and his wife’s nagging personality brought about by her mercantile endeavours. With this, it can be mentioned that neither business nor religion, is portrayed positively in the play.
Written by Wole Soyinka, the play tells the woes faithful go through in the name of seeking God and how some dubious clerics exploit their members. Using relevant dances and songs, the casts showed skill, bringing out the themes of the play to suite present situations. Showing how human in the name of religion have derailed nations and human enterprise.