One Chance evokes government’s neglect of urban environment
Sarah Janet Maas, in one of her fantasy books, Throne of Glass, wrote: ‘We each survive in our own way.’ By this, the American author was looking beyond the American space to the wider world, where man is daily planning to outdo the other. It’s as if man has been in a rate race of bitter pursuit of wealth, influence and power to his own ruin. Man’s inordinate ambitions most times have made nations to be at war, with the end result always being disastrous.
Ibadan Playhouse must have observed man’s maddening activities, both at the local and international levels, when it performed One Chance at Lagos Country Club, Ikeja, Lagos, to tell the audience the pros and coins of their actions. Written by Bode Asiyanbi, the play, a comedy, tells the story of the chaotic and cunning noticeable in cities in the name of being in control of one of the insufficient resources – space and to be relevant.
From religion to politics, street trading, indolence, to swindling and fraud, the play tells how a land grabber, an Omo Onile (Pelumi Lawal) exerts power on a hapless roadside trader, Iya Eko (Daisy Sylvester) and daily extorts money from her to allow her sell at a public space not designated for trading. As Omo Onile arm-twists Iya Eko, different people, including secondary school student consult, Alagba Jeremiah (Osagie Ogudike), whose spiritual church shares the same fate with Iya Eko’s business place, while Baba 1960 (Ayodeji Adewale), a man full of experience and knowledge of Lagos history, is at a corner running his illicit business.
Owing to the number of people struggling for the limited space, these traders do cross each other’s paths, but settle their differences within. The play resonates as the daily encounters of people in the city, especially those in the low end, showing how they struggle to eke out a living in austere and inclement environment.
Using Lagos as an a metaphor for global space, where people struggle to survive, One Chance showcases the slyness of some city dwellers, as it could be seen in the preacher, Alagba Jeremiah, a supposedly respected man of God, promising miracles and healing, but he is adept at squeezing out money for his patrons. There is also the suave banker, who tricks traders to open accounts with his bank, so as to meet his targets and keep his job. Then there is also the aspiring musician, Nigger Boy (Sinmiloluwa Ogunwale), plotting his own abduction as a way of getting his mother, Iya Eko, a petty trader, to pay ransom so he could get money for his recording sessions at a studio downtown.
Directed by Tunji Sotimirin, the play highlights the need for anyone coming to live in any of the big cities to have to plan what to do first before coming. Omo Onile is the personification of the street urchins, generally referred to as area boys.
Highlighting the steadfastness and resilience of the low class people, the play showcases how government is too far from the poor and doesn’t even bother about closing the gap. It reveals a lax in checking some of the social vices through legislation and application of the law where necessary. Omo Onile is calling the shots where government fails to step in.
The characters showed class, as they interpreted their roles properly and brought out the theme of the play. The music was also apt, except for the song, “Owo Eko, Eko la ano si” (money made/got in Lagos ends in Lagos), which is a misrepresentation of what Lagos means to many people. In fact, it is a fallacy and the stage is not supposed to be a place where such music should be sung, especially as it aims at revealing the oddities of city life. This was the only grey area in the play. Though, the director might have included the song to show the flamboyant display of wealth of Lagos people. It does not mean that penny-pinchers cannot do anything good with their hard-earned money from the blessed city, Lagos, –– a land of promise!
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