Farewell el dorado… A reward f service

A scene from the play

A scene from the play

The mysteries of life go beyond what the simple-minded can fathom or what those with discerning minds can explain. Perhaps, it is for this that the Indian sage, Jawaharlal Nehru, said, ‘life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.’

Fourth Party Theatre House recently highlighted this to theatre lovers at the University of Lagos Main Auditorium, Akoka, in a play titled Farewell Eldorado. Written and directed by Lekan Adeniyi, the play is about a particular episode in the life of Omokiniovo’s family in 1930 in Urhobo Land.

Omokiniovo (Segun Oladejo) comes from an average family. The father has everything an average man needs to live a happy life, except farmlands and cattle, which differentiate the haves from the have-nots in the land. To overcome this handicap, Oghenerho (Emeka Udochkwu), Omokiniovo’s father, works tirelessly for others, but still cannot make ends meet. Worse still, he is struggling to settle the 47 Pounds and nine shillings loan he collected from a moneylender to bury his in-law.

Just when fortune begins to smile at him, as Omokiniovo gets a scholarship from the district Church to study in town, Olowolagba, the moneylender, comes for his money. He gives Oghenerho nine days to pay up or else his son, Omokiniovo, would be indentured. This is how the hapless young man goes to live and work for Olowolagba at Gbogumila land for four years to clear his father’s debt and be free.

Omokiniovo’s coming to Olowolagba’s home boosts the sale of his shoe firm, which was nose-diving. This revival brings wealth and fame to Olowolagba and he marries the lady he has been dreaming of since his youthful days. He also goes for one of the highest titles in the land.

The evening his new bride arrives, the village priestess informs him that the gods have chosen him and Gbenro to compete for the title and that he must avoid sex for nine months and must not quarrel with anyone. Gbenro, thinking he has won the hearts of the gods, the priestess asks him never to fight or beat the wife. Both see the cleansing as a punishment, especially as they must tell anyone including their wives what the chief priestess had told them. While Gbenro, whose wife, Ogunro, is a nag, loses his temper and beats her, Olowolagba keeps to the rules and becomes the chief.

Destiny, however, comes to play, when one of the rites says the Olowolagba must hand over a calabash that contains a lot of wealth to one of his wards. He obeys and hands it to Omokiniovo, whom he believes that despite denying him freedom still served him well. Just while the young man who has got his freedom is rejoicing, Gbenro mother comes to announce that Olowolagba is pregnant. Confusion sets in and it was revealed that the pregnancy belongs to Ayinkanola (Olumide Oduyugbe), Olowolagba’s lieutenant.

Highlighting multiple themes such as discipline, betrayal, hard work, the director unnecessarily stretched some the scenes, making the play to last for two hours forty minutes. Though he tried to sustain audience’s attention with songs and dance, he fails to get the right choice, as he ended up overusing Yoruba songs and dance. Here, one had expected to see those dynamic Urhobo dances, using this would have been ideal filler, aside from entertaining, but the reverse was the case. Also, the comedy was flat, as Omokiniovo, who is supposed to do this was dry and merely recited his lines; his body language and word did not come naturally.

Also, the costume should have been a mix of the two tribes; not observing this makes the play more of a happening set in a Yoruba Land.

May it was an oversight, the play has a confusing ending, as Omokiniovo, the protagonist, confessed to having canal knowledge of the master’s wife ( Segilola) and not only Ayinkanola to his parents. Why did Segilola (Bunsola Kola-Adepoyigi) not own up to this before all. This gives the impression that even the gods can be deceived, which is a misrepresentation of the African traditional belief, which in part the play aims at projecting. In real life situation, the two men would have been made to face the music, which never happened.

However, the playwright has the licentia poetica (narrative license) to express himself the way he feels, but such expression is always proper to be in the right perspective, especially with stage presentation, because he is projecting the culture, norms, beliefs and ethos of a people and it would do us all some good to put things right.

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