Lagos presents us with diverse audience, says Jos Theatre boss
When Chevron Festival Drama opens on Saturday, October 21 with Sefi Atta’s The Engagement, as part of MUSON Festival 2017 that begins today, Lagos’ audience will feel a special stage magic all the way from a Jos theatre company, Jos Repertory Theatre, led by Dr. Patrick-Jude Oteh. Although the company has performed many times in the city by the aquatic before now, Oteh said during the week that Lagos’ audience offers a diversity that is different from those of his base in Jos and Abuja, where the troupe regularly performs.
According to Oteh, “This is our company’s third appearance at the MUSON festival. We first came with Wale Ogunyemi’s monumental epic Queen Amina of Zazzau in 2000 and then we had Emeka Nwabueze’s When The Arrow Rebounds in 2011 and now Sefi Atta’s The Engagement. I must say that, as a company, we take our work and calling very serious. We also have tremendous respect for those organisations, which are still capable of bringing the arts to life on stage and helping playwrights fulfill their dreams of seeing their work come alive. And with all sense of responsibility and humility, I know that we are a very exciting company that lends fascinating interpretations to literary works and this, above all else, is what makes us special.
“We are very excited at coming back to Lagos for yet another engagement. For us, Lagos presents us with a very different diverse audience not like what we are used to in Jos or Abuja. We are actually looking forward to a very interesting outing which will be fulfilling for us as artists and which will be satisfying to the audience. We have always had a very warm welcome and reception in Lagos and we do not think that this will be different. Also, this will give us another opportunity to see and enjoy the beautiful and energy-filled city of Lagos.”
Oteh explained the significance of Atta’s play, The Engagement and how it deals with the evergreen, contemporary issue of marriage and the attendant joys and tension associated with it.
“The issue of marriages has been fascinating through all ages,” he said. “In our clime, marriages occur in phases. There is the pre-nuptials, comprising the introduction, engagement, traditional, the church, depending on who is involved. For some people, these phases wear them out. For some, there is a lot of tension in the air. For some, it is the fact that they are hosting a major social event that hopefully will lift them higher than their peers or their neighbours. In any of the phases, there is always tension in the air. If the intending couple is not careful, and even the families, they get consumed by the tension, which bothers mostly on status.
“But in Sefi Atta’s The Engagement, the tension is built around the likelihood of the groom becoming a ‘ladies man’ even after marriage and if you have a bride, who expects a lot of responsibility from the groom, a bride who is even likely to be conservative, then you have a scenario where the marriage might not hold.”
Oteh also explained how the play’s theme fits into the overall theme of MUSON Festival that proclaims ‘Celebrating Excellence in the Arts,’ noting, “The play fits perfectly into MUSON’s 2017 theme for the festival. First, the playwright, Atta, is an excellent and engaging writer and her plays are equally fascinating as they treat various issues in our contemporary existence. Secondly is the fact that the programming for the 2017 MUSON festival is re-defined as it combines drama, music and it is the excellence that the organisation has always striven to achieve and celebrate. It is simply a festival filled with grace and beauty.”
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