Cultural Centre-Calabar (2013)
Cast: Tina Mba, Haji Bello, Benneth Ogbeiwe, Damilare Kuku, Zara Udifia, Bongolipso, Tom Godwin, Kemi Akindoju, Onyeka Fiaka.
Playwright: Uche Nwokedi (SAN)
Director: Kanayo Omo
Reviewer: Ogunkoya, Ninilola Jennifer.
Department of Theatre and Performing Arts
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State.
The today’s Nigeria National Theatres and its various States Cultural Centers have reached their menopause as a result of monumental happenings in Nigeria and around the globe. A respite may have come for dramatic stage-performances for the Nigerian audience; not only through our various Learning Institutions where Theatre Arts or Performing Arts is being offered as a professional course, but through the phenomenon called, “Kakadu”… The Musical.
Kakadu… The musical, is a tale of a diversified ethnic individual being glued together by the Nigerian Post- Colonial Gift (Independence) that came in the wake of 1960 and the attendant various illusions/possible realities pregnant by that independence; and finally, the blow on those dreams and illusions. The story’s dramatic environment is in Lagos of the 1950’s… after independence, and the vibrating effects of the then civil war on the populace. This story is told through the eyes of a popular “Night Club” – Kakadu. The then capital of, Nigeria is Lagos- where happenings in the white man’s country reverberated with pounding echoes on the street of Lagos: from the early 60’s fashion, clad with mini’s, midi’s, wigs, baggy, sun-shades, to manner of speaking, tastes in food, drinks, as well as the then people’s habitual love for unwinding, partying through clubbing and dancing.
Three dramatic aesthetics in this historical play sent the Calabar audience frenzy and crazy on the two nights the play ran: governor Liyel Nmoke, his wife/family, the governor’s Cabinet members, the reviewer inclusive; they were:
(1) Characters in the play-the central character named Lugard da Rocha and fondly called Lord Lugard by everyone, is the manager of the Kakadu Night Club). He sojourned into Lagos in the early forties ‘a lost soul’, He daily strived to calve an identity for his lost identity. The name, “Lugard’, tells of an assimilated person into the then colonial era in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. Daily hunted by this psychological plague, Lugard da Rocha made the night-club his entirety. He guides its every activity with an amount of flirting jealousy…only there he is a personality…only in the night-club he gives instructions, order and receives accompanying accolades from his staff…”this is the only place it happens in Lagos. If you are in Lagos and you are not here in Kakadu…” he would brag to the guests as he sings to the admiring audience in the night club.
The four mutual friends from different tribes-Emeka, Kola, Osahon, Dapo and their female counterparts-Bisi, Amonia, Enoh and Hossana, epitomize the greatest gifts of life-‘love and happiness’…the metaphor called Kakadu. These eight friends did not know if the words called tribalism, hate, ethnicity and religion existed until the July 1966 civil war broke out in far away Eastern Nigeria, sending the night-club members and users scampering for safety. So,one after the other they scurry to their own ethnic abode…flinging into the wind their various occupations and the love that once glued them… and Kakadu the Night Club thinned into a shadow and a place of dirge. But, true love always sours like an eagle! Emeka and Bisi symbolize ‘true love’ in the play, importantly enough, their eventual marriage to eachother.
(2) Secondly, the music and the dance- The story in the play was accompanied by different music that populated the Nigeria music entertainment scene beginning from the late 70s where, the likes of Sir Victor Olaiya, Victor Uwaifo, Zeal Onyia, Fela Kuti, Geraldo Pino, Segun Bucknor, Onyeka Onwenu etc sang their best and brought all the various ethnic blocs in Nigeria into this mainstream-music. This deliberate show of musical-prowess by Ben Ogbeiwi fanned the Calabar audience’s appetites, as they were propelled into various rhythmic movements: some became the lead-singer, some chorused , the music, others swayed their hips to the tunes, the men swaged their heads in different directions; governor Liyel-Imoke inclusive, his wife went ecstatic in her seat, it was an opportunity for the reviewer to fan her nationalistic heroism that she was edging into adulthood in that era. The actors’ dance was erotic, sexually masturbating and carnivalistic in nature; no one condemned the other person’s choice of dance-style or habit throughout the duration the audience sat Kakadu… The Musical set the tone for the Calabar Carnival (2013) 26th and 27th events.
(3) Thirdly, Kanayo Omo’s directorial style- he was extravagant with the plots of the story. One dramatic moments paved way for the next dramatic scene and yet by another. The costumes helped in advancing the plots of the play. As the Calabar audience thought Kanayo had transported them back into the Nigeria (Lagos) of the 1960s and was grateful to him for that, another breath-taking sexual gesture or dialogue was dropped on stage by the actors. Thump up for Kanayo!!!
The overall message in Kakadu… The Musical must not be lost due to the technological- hype approach of the play’s director. The message in Kakadu is that, human relationship is a great idea that fosters the unity, love, growth and development of any nation. And that ‘war’ is heinous and destructive. War dehumanizes. When war breaks, the affectionate-best in every man takes flight and is being replaced by zeal to tame, domesticate and to kill. The groups that suffer most at war are the most powerless groups…little children and women; it is they who face the aftermath of the war food and fruit scarcity, disease and death, looting and plundering, killing and carnage, as well as the dishonor of being shared out as war booties to victorious army officers.
True to Kanayo’s lavishness on the play, at 164 minutes, the play was fairly long. There were few times when the story felt a bit drawn out, but the gorgeous action scenes and impressive dialogue really held the audience’s attention and kept them on the edge of their seats. There were scenes where the spot-light was too dim to illuminate the on-going action.
Despite the play minor shortcomings, Kakadu…The Musical is exciting, entertaining, educative, innovative and historical. The incursion of the new media technology has changed theatre performance entirely. The new technology, made possible by the advancement in science and communication technology has opened doors for the integration of film, video, cinema into life-stage performance. What Kakadu put on the Calabar Cultural Stage on the 17th-18th, December 2013 was perhaps what every playwright and play director in Nigeria must begin to fashion-after; if his/her work is to remain relevant to the ever changing Nigeria audience and importantly enough, to bring back to our various theatres the run-away audience to the streets of carnival-celebrations. I don’t know where ‘Kakadu’…The Musical is planning to take place next, but let Nigerians and the world’s people stand in attention for this photographic stage-performance.