National

‘Why we are reviving live theatre in Niger Delta’

 

AS a Theatre scholar, what in your opinion must be done to revive live theatre in the Nigerian society?

The greatest problem affecting live theatre, apart from poverty which is preventing the average Nigerian from enjoying live theatre is security. The security challenge in the country is so disturbing that you are not sure of what happens the next moment, be it in the night or daytime.

With the spate of ritual killings and kidnapping of innocent people all over the country, you are left ill-at ease with moving out at night for such live theatre shows. Mind you, theatre (live theatre) thrives better at night. However, to address your question directly, I believe we can make do with Matinees instead of night shows.

Other than this, the poverty rate of the citizenry is a serious factor militating against live theatre. You know it costs a lot of funds to have a reasonable production and for a producer to break even; pay his cast and crew members and expect to make profit thereof in this present economic situation we have in Nigeria, would require theatre audiences to pay so much in gate fees for a good production. Who has the money to expand between 5,000 to 10,000 to pay to watch a performance however interested you probably would have been?  In the years gone by, there used to be corporate sponsorships of major productions by some banks operating in Nigeria. That was how great directors and dramatists in the mould of Dapo Adelugba, Ola Rotimi, Bayo Oduneye, Wale Ogunyemi and some others showcased great productions.

Ozidi, Ovaranwen, Nogbaisi, Death and the King’s Horseman and Langbodo were produced. Even low budgeted productions we had with Anansa play house, etc which is used to produce plays in line with the WAEC syllabus literature texts may not thrive today because of the cost implements. Parents who are grappling with school fees may find it difficult to spare extra money to give their children and wards to enjoy such production even if you took the security challenge off the equation.

So in essence, I think that Federal and State Governments must see theatre as an important socialising factor and make policies to encourage live theatre. Corporate organisations should see the revival of live theatre as a social corporate responsibility. What people don’t know is that theatre has a lot of therapeutic effect. There is more than theatre does in the immediate; giving psychological and emotional response, than film and other recorded plays or whatever.

Theatre education! Frankly speaking, most of what I did with theatre education revolved around the university system. The university provided the conducive environment to produce plays with minimal cost. You know your raw materials as a theatre practitioner are people, artistes and actors as it were. So it was easier to experiment your ideas in terms of plays and diverse production possibilities in the educational setting. When I was teaching, I was one performance freak. Apart from engaging my students, I mean theatre students, I also founded a drama club which embraced students from various other departments to showcase my art. In fact, that aspect was a carryover, if you permit my loose usage of the phrase. From the old Bayelsa College of Arts and Science where I started out as a lecturer before moving over to N.D.U. where I was until my various appointments by the State Government. In terms of administration, if you are asking about my theatre administrative experience or whatever, you may have to consider teaching of theatre and forming theatre groups under the educational system as part of it. But if you ask in terms of activities as a higher education administrator, in terms of being a Registrar, I must say that it is a different ballgame. That wouldn’t be my place to judge or make any statement about. It is left for posterity to decide upon after I might have served out my tenure in that regard.

As an author who engages the stage through his works, what satire or absurdity or otherwise are likely going to result from the covid-19 scenarios on stage?

COVID-19 pandemic is a phenomenon that came to rattle the entire globe in more ways than anyone could imagine. It is still on-going and we are yet to see the last of it so one has little to say about that. I remember within this period, my good friend Greg Mbajogwu; mono drama specialist, invited me to contribute to a series he was proposing to present for sponsorship about COVID-19 but due to my crowded schedule, as a University Administrator, I could not honour the invitation. But I must tell you that my avant gardist mentality in terms of the absurdity of responses to COVID-19 globally, are enough food thought for any dramatist to explore. And I am conceiving of post COVID-19 theatrics already. At the appropriate time, it will snowball into a robust theatre, I believe.

Tell us what role social media plays in ensuring that theatre prospers or goes places in present society?

Social media is the rave of contemporary times. A huge burden is lifted off producers and practitioners of theatre with the advent of social media. I say this with all sense of responsibility, as in that the social media has helped in reducing the enormous cost of advertisement on the traditional media; print and electronic as it were. With a minimal cost you could advertise your art to wide audiences across the globe. Other than that, the issues that are raised and the diversities thereof by various people all over the world, create the necessary inspiration for an artist in multi-dimensional ways.

What is the level of literary vis-à-vis theatre development in the Niger Delta at the moment?

There is a robust literary and theatre tradition in the Niger Delta. If you ask me, literature and theatre thrive amid a malaise of several forms thus, the societal malady of societal degradation, resulting in diverse insurgencies and counter insurgencies from government operatives and other group interests help to stimulate literature and theatre generally. And as you know, we have a handful of sick socio-political and environmental maladies bedevilling us here. So we are not in the lack of literary or theatre culture here. If anything, the problems we have are general in tune and character of the larger country which are insecurity and poverty. The irony of it all however, is that our insecurity here is more politically motivated than anything else. And the poverty issue is as we know generally everywhere else. That is why there is a dearth of live theatre, a dearth of published works and so on. So in essence, a lot depends on the levels of government, L.G.A. states, and most especially, the Federal Government to create the enabling environment for literature, theatre and indeed the entire cultural landscape to thrive in Nigeria.

 

 

Source: thenationonlineng.net