I was at the University of Ibadan’s Arts Theatre last weekend to see the staging of two children-oriented plays by two of Nigeria’s best playwrights Wole Soyinka and Femi Osofisan. The plays were Soyinka’s Childe Internationale and Osofisan’s Making Children is Fun. The selection was in honour of the International Children’s Day, and was performed by the Ibadan Playhouse, a theatre company based in Ibadan, and directed by Yinka Smart and Soji Cole.
Both plays are unique in that they show their writers in their most accessible (and playful) format. This applies more to Soyinka than to Osofisan, but the duration of each play (less than forty minutes each) marked both works as more of skits/sketches and short interventions than heavy and serious work. But that notwithstanding, the works addressed serious social, political, and cultural issues of today and of the time when they were written.
Speaking in-between the plays, as well as when the show was over, the director of the company, Mr. Ropo Ewenla, expressed appreciation for the presence of the audience, while speaking about the mission of the theatre company. Not only was it created to recreate a culture of theatre-going in Ibadan and around the country, the company is also on a mission to bring plays of significance to the audience at affordable gate fees. But more than that, he spoke about a mission to use the vehicle of drama to reach the less advantaged in the society.
Children from orphanages around Ibadan are invited regularly to attend command performances and martinées for free. Secondary school children are also invited to watch performances at reduced rates, and the theatre company hopes in the future to go out regularly to perform in Nigerian prisons as a way to humanise the inmates and workers. Definitely something to laud and to support.
My experience at the University Arts Theatre both as a student and as a regular visitor to the university has always been a fun and stimulating experience, and this was no different. I strongly commend what the Ibadan Playhouse is doing. They can do with even more (corporate, moral, financial) support.