Come with me to a time when my love for the stage and theater in Lagos begins.
The University of Lagos Auditorium is the nurturing room and I am in my early years in primary school. The Drama club in secondary school holds a natural allure and I am a part of a number of shows. While there, we dance, we sing, we cry, we laugh, we leave it all on the stage. Until, this elevated space becomes more familiar. Competitions inspire us to write scripts and put on a good show. Bright Talents over a few years and productions at Muson Center, Onikan come later.
The Muson Center and Terrakulture are my go-to places for watching stage plays in Lagos these days. When a former classmate and Drama Club member announced on Twitter that she was going to watch ÌTÀN (The Story) at Muson last week, I was faced with a tough choice. The Eat Drink Lagos Festival won out that week as you may have read in this post.
For the first time ever, I walked in through the gates (not just a drive by) of the National Theater, Iganmu Lagos. Now, if you know or have heard anything about National Theatre, it is about 40 years and is shaped like a military cap. Yes, your guess is right. This building is indeed a product of one of Nigeria’s military regimes. In 2017, it glows in the dark and is a venue for great theater in Lagos such as ÌTÀN.
For a little over 2 hours, my group of 4 and a packed audience followed the intriguing story of two men representing the older and the younger generation. There was comedy, traditional Yoruba dance, modern hip hop, some 80s moves, and drumming to the -ng. The set and special effects were amazing especially the echo that resounded each time Asiko said his name.
Asiko represents time personified and he is easily my favorite character. As the narrator, he leads us into the corridors of the older man’s past and we spy into the younger man’s future. I enjoyed every bit of this stage play. Well, except for the man in a costume who danced on stilts. That was creepy. The entire performance was reminiscent of a New York Broadway production such as Motown the Musical, but spiced with Nigerian flavors and a suspense driven plot.
In such high theater spirits, I told my colleagues over lunch to go see this evening’s performances after work. Thus, began a spirited discussion on theater versus film. The ambiance at the National Theater Iganmu was nice and the N1,000 ticket cost to watch ÌTÀN reasonable. However, what happens when the timing is not convenient? Is it possible to watch theater in Lagos on screen at one’s convenience? I argued that it would be hard to replicate the echo that followed my name is Asiko! Or, the thunderous dancing that traveled through the stage down our spines as the floor shook. Still, a part of me agreed with them.
Wakaa the musical and Saro are still some of the best productions that have come out from theater in Lagos. Sadly, I missed them. The possibility of watching them again on stage is slim. Do you think theater in Lagos should be filmed and distributed for viewing after the production ends? Share your thoughts
ÌTÀN is a prodcution by Thespian Family Theater & Productions. Images are courtesy of @Thespianfamily