‘Ijaw drama reflects African total theatre’

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Your play, The Leopard of Kalama, like all plays on the Niger Delta problem, seems to encourage violence as a means of resolving the issue. As a dramatist, aren’t you supposed to explore other solutions?
I agree with you but then, there are various ways to look at issues. You might just decide to show the problem the way it is or decide to proffer solution to the problem. And you may as well, while trying to proffer solution, show the violence the way it is before finding a solution, so to speak, using the art as a normative tool. So, it could be a one sided thing but it depends on where your creative impulse carries you to.

The play is a trilogy?
Yes, The Leopard... is the first of a trilogy which centres on a young couple. The Mask is the second and the circle is completed in When the Table Turns, which x-rays, in a way, the 2003 elections which it satirizes and it is the play that attempts to suggest a solution to our political situation. The solution it suggests is that there should be dialogue and genuine intention to address the Niger Delta crisis and the country’s one party state.

Have the three plays been staged together before?
In January 2004, they were premiered at the University of Ibadan and then based on people’s suggestions and observations, I attempted to restructure some parts of all the three plays. After that, I staged both The Mask and When The Table Turns at the Niger Delta University. It was only The Leopard of Kalama that had its second staging at the ANA convention in Yenagoa.

So in a way all of them have been staged because I believe that a play should undergo metamorphosis by being staged many times before it is published so that by the end of the day, all the rough edges would have been removed.

In otherwords, the three are your first plays ever?
I would call it first major work. Hitherto, I had written a play, My Son David, during my youth service in Ogun State In fact, when I was serving, the beauty of the Ogun State Cultural Centre enchanted me and I resolved not only to act on that stage but also produce my play which came true when together with other corp members of like minds. we staged the play. The play has been rested but as time goes on, I may want to revisit it.

Do you have any published work yet?
No, I’m working towards publishing the trilogy and the other one I staged at our ANA Bayelsa Literary day entitled Another Abiku, an adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s Abiku.

I noticed that your play is generously spiced with music and mime while the other play staged at the convention also contains the same. J. P. Clark’s Ozidi is also the same. Is this a reflection of the Ijaw culture or what?
African theatre has a lot to do with what we call total theatre which includes music, dance, mime and dialogue. And I think it’s a reflection of the Ijaw culture alright because we have a great deal of theatrical activities; music and dance, embedded in Ijaw culture. And you do know that in Africa, even in the height of sorrow, you sing and you dance. So in a way, we are doing our total theatre and that is why it is so reflected.

Why did you choose to be a dramatist?
It’s a lifelong interest. I do believe that the arts is a way of life. It reflects a lot of things. Ican’t do without the arts; I can’t do without producing plays; I can’t do without writing. These are the things that give me inner satisfaction and fulfilment. There is hardly any other thing I could do that will give me this satisfaction, not the millions in the world.

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