Filmmaking has its role to play but there is a certain extraordinary experience that being in the same space as the performers on a stage and in theatre brings.
By Odenike Odetola
The theatre is a truly magical experience that isn’t quite easy to articulate.
My introduction into an acting career was through theatre, and looking back I can’t imagine what it would have meant not having that foundation. I started out watching plays and it had a powerful impact on me not only as a performer but as a human being.
The Theatre is one of the most ancient art forms and much like several things that have survived centuries. It connects people of every age, tribe, race, religion, and gender. Having a sense of community is something that is inherently human in nature, and theatre is an art form that creates that feeling for everyone involved – from the creators and the performers to the audience.
Being in the same space as the performers and being a part of an imaginary world that is right in front of you is an extraordinary experience, and I am convinced that this is one of the reasons that stage and theatre performances have stood the test of time.
Plays and theatre inspired a lot of what we do now in terms of content. With technology and the media, you would think a film is a replacement for the theatre. Content distribution is easier -from the comfort of your home or pretty much anywhere, you can watch almost anything. This is an amazing feat and a beautiful thing for creators and their audience, but the experience of connecting with family, friends, and making new connections by deliberately going out to watch a play and socialize cannot be replaced by the advent of film and digital distribution. Theatre has an entire culture around it.
Theatre can be quite expository and often is a way through which some societal and political issues can be touched on and explored because it isn’t usually driven by a commercial enterprise. Early playwrights like Hubert Ogunde, Yoruba Ronu, and many others, employed this as a major tool for social communication.
In Nigeria, the theatre world has grown exponentially over the past few years. With the help of a few practitioners who were consistent and some big plays with better marketing, more and more people have come to see the power that a live stage production holds. I have had a few people ask me to keep them informed about upcoming plays, after having the opportunity to experience one and realizing what they were missing.
More performers have begun to collaborate, one-man/woman shows are becoming more popular. Things are generally on the up and up in the theatre in Nigeria.
With the new social space that we are in, we can easily create art for the theatre through collaborations and innovative ideas. For instance, The Lagos Theatre Festival, founded by the British council in 2013, created a medium for a lot of story-tellers to tell their stories through theatre in unconventional spaces. More recently, the Lagos Fringe, which is another innovative theatre festival, is another platform bringing creatives together. It has created a space for people to enjoy theatre in a fun and new way, and still be in a relaxed environment by making use of several unusually cool spaces in Lagos. The first Lagos Fringe holds in November 2018 with Festival Director Kenneth Uphopho and Producer Brenda Fashugba.
Beyond the shores, practitioners have toured different parts of the world with Nigerian theatre. From plays by Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Femi Osofisan, to more recent plays like Hear Word! Naija Woman Talk true by Ifeoma Fafunwa; Lola Shoyeyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s wives; Saro the musical; Kakadu and many others, we have given other societies a taste of our culture, heritage, and stories through epic stage performances.
I believe that the glory days of stage and theatre is only just rising upon us, and we are ushering it in with glee.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.