Arojah Theatre breathes life into Ben Tomolojun’s wilted flower
Few gladiators have kept the flame of the theatre burning in Abuja, the city without a functional purpose-built theatre. Fewer have done it with the persistence and consistency that Arojah Theatre has over the last few years.
And in keeping with this, the Jerry Adesewo-led theatre group staged Ben Tomoloju’s “Flower’s Introspect”. The show ran from Wednesday to Friday at the rather small stage of the Korean Cultural Centre, which was certainly not designed to host plays of that magnitude.
For theatre lover’s, it was a rare treat. For critical members of the audience, it was an opportunity to introspect, to borrow from the title, on our perceptions about gender relations and our humanity.
The play is focused on three young men, Gbotaye, Dingi and Motowun, who like typical young men, are trying to navigate the minefield that is relationship and dating.
Poor and with stunted dreams, they obsess over the women in their lives and their frustration and a series of unfortunate events make for an interesting comedy.
Gbotaye is infatuated with the flirtatious Mosun, Dingi is in love with the very pious Christianah who offers him the Bible each time he reaches for her hand, and Motowun is driven to the point of insanity by his love for Teniola, daughter of a tycoon, who does not approve of the relationship.
In the end, none of them wins as, after suffering beatings and other misfortunes, they all lose out on the girls, none worse than Dingi, whose pious girlfriend commits suicide after she is raped by a priest.
The playwright’s attempt to win sympathy for the characters at the end falls flat on its face and the reason is quite clear.
The play opens with the three men gloating over a girl who has been raped. They laugh at her misfortune and justify the act because the girl is not favourably disposed to the men who approach her.
This does not engendeer goodwill for the characters in the minds of the audience and somehow, one hopes that they should suffer for their gloating. This is worsened by the fact that there was no further attempt by the playwright to address this issue and it makes one wonder what really the point of it is in the first place.
So when Gbotaye, played by Ikpomwonsa Gold, in his stupidity to see his girlfriend at 4 am is brutalized by the police and then sees the girl being dropped off by a rich lover, one can only gloat at him in return.
The same thing applies when Motowun, played by Ebichi Promise, is horsewhipped by his girlfriend’s father for venturing to see her.
And ultimately when Dingi, played by the impressive Tunde Ijadunola, discovers that his Christianah had committed suicide a year before, just after she had been raped, the potential tear-jerking moment just doesn’t quite happen and the audience ended up laughing, perhaps at Dingi’s comical way of way mourning his beloved.
“He ruined her make-up,” he laments about what the priest had done to her.
For this play, the make-up was ruined right from the onset and one is not surprised to learn that since the play was written in 1976, it had only been staged during the playwrights school days at the University of Ibadan, then in the mid-80s and then recently by Arojah under the direction of Adesewo Fayaman Bay.
Aristotle implied that for a tragedy to be successful, the characters should be noble. There is really nothing noble about Tomoloju’s characters, men who gloat over something as inhumane as rape. And this ultimately ruined the tragedy of Christianah’s death. But there was something commendable about the acting of this cast and kudos should be given to Director Bay for it.
Arojah put on a great performance, even with the limited resources available to them. But this is not a great story. Far from it.