o returns in Oba Koso
Sango returns in Oba Koso
By OZOLUA UHAKHEME. 04/01/2012 00:00:00
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Thirty-five years after his death, one of Nigeria’s theatre icons, Duro Ladipo, ‘resurrected’ in one of his plays, Oba Koso, at the Muson Centre, Lagos, last Tuesday. The two-hour presentation was a special Yuletide bouquet for arts enthusiasts, reports Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME.
The Agip Recital Hall of Muson Centre, Lagos, was filled to capacity. For two hours, theatre buffs and enthusiasts watched with nostalgic feelings the return of the prodigies of the late Duro Ladipo at a command performance of the legendary and timeless Oba Koso. Several years after it was last shown on a Nigerian stage to such eminent personalities, the opera appeared on the MUSON stage to kickstart a planned nationwide performance.
With a special appearance by his wife, Mrs Abiodun Duro Ladipo, also known as Moremi or Oya, Oba Koso, the refreshing two-hour performance by Duro Ladipo Arts and Entertainment Group, threw the audience into ecstasy.
The presentation dubbed: An evening of cultural re-awakening was a Christmas gift the Industrial and General Insurance Plc, sponsor of the event, gave Nigerians, especially the Lagos audience.
Mrs Duro Ladipos’s opening rendition of songs set the tone for the evening performance that highlighted the characteristics of most leaders, especially pride, power, envy and influence.
The play was directed by Isiaka Eegunbunmi and choreographed by Raji Opeyemi, with Biodun Adekanmbi as stage manager. Interestingly, it featured three of Ladipo’s children. His son, Yomi, played Sango, the powerful but insecure Alaafin (king) who plots the death of his two war generals, Gbonka (Jimoh Abdulrahman) and Timi (Adebimpe Muniru) after he perceived them as having become too powerful.
He sent Timi, a famous archer, on an assignment, hoping he would be killed but the general triumphs and crowns himself king at Ede. He then sent Gbonka after him, thinking that one of them would at least kill the other, but Gbonka, who succeeded in making Timi to sleep, did not kill his fellow general. He brought Timi to Oyo as a captive. Instead of leaving matters as they are, Sango allows the people to instigate him into arranging another contest between the two. Gbonka defeats Timi and becomes swollen headed.
Riding on the immunity he got from witches against death, he becomes indestructible and dares Sango to kill him. He tells the king to abdicate the throne and return to Tapa land, his mother’s home town, before seven days or he will deal with him. The fiery Sango, in a fit of anger with smoke bellowing from his mouth and nostrils, attempts to deal with Gbonka but kills his family and innocent onlookers in the process. This forces Sango to take an action which culminated in his disastrous end.
The play though commendable threw up a few puzzles. One is: what would be going through (Abiodun Duro Ladipo) Moremi’s mind as she watched her son, Yomi, play her husband and her daughter, Sholabomi Akinsola, play Oya, her traditional role?
The colourful traditional setting lifted the presentation as did other props. Also, the dances were well choreographed and Omolabake Adekunle, the costumier, deserves a thumb up for the good job.
Effective use of lively drumming, singing and dancing complemented the judicious use of sound and special effects that kept the audience occupied when scenes were being changed. But, the time lag between scenes was a bit too long.
In terms of characterisation, Gbonka and Timi lived up to their roles but Yomi could have done better by putting more energy into acting Sango, thunder god and a fiery actor full of energy.
But for his death, Duro Ladipo would have watched with pride as his children took prime roles in the acting of his most popular play, Oba Koso, which won him numerous prizes across the globe. Oba Koso took the first prize at the Berlin Theatre Festival in 1964 and wowed the audience at the first Commonwealth Arts Festival in the UK, a year later. It was reportedly performed some 2,000 times in at least 15 countries before the playwright’s death in 1978. Oba Koso was a special menu served the Lagos audience where the elderly nostalgically recalled years of the travelling theatre. And for the young, who had never seen any of Ladipo’s plays, it was a rare privilege watching the most popular.
It was, indeed, a refreshing evening as some guests relived their experiences at the close of the play. Among them was the former Managing Director of Daily Times, Ambassador Patrick Dele Cole, who noted that Oba Koso reaffirmed that “we come from very deep traditional roots.”
The former Minister of Agriculture, Bamidele Dada noted that Nigeria could draw several lessons from the play in the face of current challenges.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart in Southwest, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, thanked the Executive Vice-Chair of IGI, Remi Olowude, for the initiative while folk singer, Jimi Solanke prayed for Oya in Yoruba. “Ise egbon mi ti o dawole, olorun a tunbo maa mu tesiwaju.” (My brother’s work that you have embarked on, may God continue to prosper it.”
Former helmsman at the Voice of Nigeria, Taiwo Alimi, noted that the only way Nigeria could be great is if the Federal Government made culture the centre of development initiatives.
Olowude described Oba Koso as one of the most recognised stage productions from Nigeria and a play with strong historic significance. He disclosed that IGI sponsored the play as part of its contribution to the promotion of our culture and tradition through the re-awakening of popular theatre in Nigeria.
“Theatre is a strong medium of ensuring the continuity of a people’s culture and tradition, especially since it is an accepted fact that art imitates life. It is our interest in supporting professionalism in the arts, and stage performance is more demanding, hence, the complete, well-rounded artiste is one that is versatile on stage and celluloid,” he added.
According to Olowude, Oba Koso, matches the strong desire for a vision-driven Nigeria. He said it is a quality family entertainment, especially in a festive season. He said in 2010, he attended a public function at which there was a brief rendition of Moremi Ajasoro by Chief Biodun Ladipo, wife of the late Chief Duro Ladipo and an accomplished thespian in her own right.
“Her performance brought back memories of the strings of excellent cultural performances of the Duro Ladipo family. Hence, it was not difficult to accede to the request for sponsorship by the Yomi Duro-Ladipo Theatre Group. There is a need for concerted effort to help re-awaken culture in Nigeria as a panacea for national unity.
Olowude wondered why live theatre is still thriving in the West, especially London, but declining in Nigeria? He reiterated that it was time we revived the stage, not only for enjoyment but also for job creation. He added that the play would tour the Southwest and the country soon.
The excitement was also felt among the family members of the late dramatist. Duro Ladipo’s widow, who lamented the dearth of stage performances, highlighted its therapeutic functions, urging the audience to have a forgiving spirit as Olowude had previously abandoned the family, which made her angry with him before they reconciled.
She, however, thanked Olowude for sponsoring the production. Son of the late actor Yomi assured that the family was on a mission to bring back the works of his father whom he said is not dead.