Thursday, 3 December 2015

REVIEW: Who’s Afraid of Solarin? By Femi Osofisan

FROM L-R: the Chairman, C for Education(down), C for cooperative, Doctor and Baba Fawomi
Theatre is a wide area of human experience, which is communicative; it can pass a message through the work of the performers to the audience and since it is an expression of human creative skill, it is therefore, an art itself. It mirrors the society for the audience to reflect on. Furthermore, it focuses its findings on the human existence in the society and the forces of the cosmology, then play on its findings for the society to see and be impacted. . The theatre, through its performance provides the immediate feedback from the audience. It is more like an interactive forum between the performer and the audience. For instance, when the audience begins to laugh in a production segment, it may disrupt the actors’ performance momentary, but it will also serve a spur to the performers.
 A commercial theatre is a business outlet. For just as a person buys a product from a market, so also a theatergoer goes into a commercial theatre expecting to get the worth for the ticket. This can be said to be the situation with the recent performance at the Uniport Arts Theatre (CRAB) of the play Who’s Afraid of Solarin? Written by the prolific playwright, Femi Osofisan, which enthralled the audience and has given new stage names to some of the cast  who participated in the production.

R-L: C for Education, Lawyer, Cicilia, C for cooperation, Baba Fawomi

The play,Who’s Afraid of Solarin? Was first published in 1978, it is an adaptation of Nikola Gogol’s The Government Inspector (1836)  It is a satire on graft and corruption prevalent in the Nigerian society and is structured into five parts. The story is built around Tai Solarin, the one- time Public Complaints Commissioner (PCC ) for the old Western Region of Nigeria comprising of Oyo, Ondo, and Ogun States. The much talked about Public Complaints Commission in the play was established by the Obasanjo- Muhammed regime as a way of clearing the society of corruption. Dr. Tai Solarin’s dedication, diligence and incorruptible disposition fetch him the appointment by government to head this commission and Osofisan wrote this play in his honour.
L_R: the Chairman, C for cooporation, Baba Fawomi (down) Doctor,( kneeling) C for Education, Price control, Lawyer
With almost four decades after this play was published, the play is still relevant to Nigeria and Africa as a whole because it discusses topical issues like bad governance and leadership, corruption in all facet of life. Corruption has reached such an alarming rate that successive governments used and continue to use it as potential weapon to amass wealth and to purchase the loyalty of political supporters, and victimize or embarrass their opponents, or those who are considered as constituting hindrances to their political ambition. Osofisan uses this play to berate the public office holders in their nefarious enterprise.
Chairman, C for Cooperative, Baba Fawomi, C for Education, Doctor, Price control
In this play, Who’s Afraid of Solarin? Osofisan presents a group of corrupt and fraudulent local government employees. All the local government officials and their operatives are corrupt and fraudulent without any exemption, right from the Chairman of the council, Chief Gbonmiayelobiojo, the council members, the two professional beggars ( Lamidi and Lemomu) and the pastor who is supposed to be the preacher of moral rights. Upon hearing that Solarin, the dreaded Public Complaints Commissioner is about visiting the Local Government Council, they all became apprehensive. Consequently, the Chairman summons a meeting of all the council members to decide how they can avert this impending doom.
The meeting, which turns out to be an avenue where all their corrupt and fraudulent practices are expose as they all involve in confessional statements at every provocation. For instance;
COUNCILOR FOR COOPERATIVE: that’s not the point of our complaint, you eunuch. After all your appointment as a director of the Breweries came to you first on the radio. You didn’t reject it.
COUNCILOR FOR EDUCATION: Don’t be silly; is it the same thing? Why are you women always confusing issue? Or you know how much I paid for that appointment? ….
COUNCILOR FOR COOPERATIVES: And what of you!  is it the burden of plunder from the UPE buildings project that keeps you stunted? 
COUNCILOR FOR EDUCATION: all because I refused to let you encroach on the school lands for your poultry scheme….

 However, they decide to involve the service of Baba Fawomi, an Ifa Priest. Who according to the Yoruba belief, is an eye of the gods to the people, instead, he turns out to be an epitome of greed and dishonesty. Having known their problem, he decides to exploit the situation for self-aggrandizement. In order to help them they must pay through their noses. He therefore demands five cows each to carry out the sacrifice. In addition, they must provide ten goats, of the home-grown type all black and fat. He also ask them to provide sixteen fowls strong limbed, home raised  chickens and not the foreign ones from the government farm which do not allow one to exercise teeth and seven bales of white cloth by each one of them. All these provisions are for first part of the ceremony.   Ifa Priest is also a strong drinker; according to him, “Ifa does not speak on a dry throat.” It his usual act of demanding for drink as a start before he can perform any divination that got him into trouble with Polycarp who provides toilet soap to him in place of a gin.
Osofisan also satirize religious hypocrisy in the society. Pastor Nebuchadnezzar is overcome by the fear of Solarin because he has embezzled the church’s money.   He also involved the service of Baba Fawomi who comes in his usual manner to ransack and loot the Pastor’s home instead of providing help to his self-inflected trouble. 
Ishola Oriebora, a Lagos rogue who ran away from his landlord on account of his debts, escapes from being arrested and finds a succor in the Pastor’s house. All of a sudden, his is mistaken for the dreaded Public Complaints Commissioner, Solarin by the Local Government Council. Being an irresponsible and mischievous fellow, he plays on this mistaken identity, milking fortunes from the Chairman, the council members and even the Pastor and his daughter whom he promises marriage. This he sustains until the last when the news of when the arrival of the real Public Complaints Commissioner, Solarin and everything is revealed in a hilarious manner.    
  The casting for the production was good but the best part of the casting was the role of  “Chief Funso Fowolu” alias “Force is Force” (Councilor for Education)  which was played by a lady, Igechi Elechi-Amadi. The daughter of the famous literary icon, Chief Capt. Elechi Amadi. She was able to maintain the nuisances that his typical of an average Yoruba man. The costume was more of contemporary Yoruba costumes with some mixture of corporate wears and professional costumes like that of the pastor, the doctor, lawyer and the imposter, Isola. 

Isola (right)
Using Ifa Priest and the Pastor, Osofisan of them is that we do not need any religious or extra human explanations for our predicament nor do we need to go and seek for people on any occasion to help us pray to some divine power. For this reason, he demystifies the gods and spiritual beliefs in the play. Man must be responsible for his actions not the gods or any immortal being anywhere. Through the play, Osofisan asserts that Nigerians should face its material problems, which are not products of any divine making but the handiwork of men. The play chronicles Nigeria’s many socio-political problems in such a way that the audience who want to see many of Nigerian myriad problems in a lighter mood were made to laugh and feel the impact of the play on stage. 


DIRECTOR                                                       -                                                    SUNNY GIFT                   

DOP                                                                    -                                                  SNAZEY BRYMZ                  

CHIEF JAMES GBONMIAIYELOBIOJO       -                                             JOSEPH YOMI ORRU                            Chairman Of The Local Government

TOLU: Chairman’s Wife                                  -                                                LYDIA SOBEREKON          

CHIEF FUNSO FOWOLU                              -                                               IGECHI ELECHI-AMADI                          Councilor For Education

PASTOR NEBUCHADNEZZAR                -                                                    EDAFE OHWOFASA                

CECILIA                                           -                                                              BLESSING NWACHUKWU                      Pastor’s Daughter

CHIEF MAGISTRATE                          -                                                        ADOLPHUS FESTUS                            Ayokanmi Olaitan

BABA FAWOMI                                        -                                                        CHARLES IFECO                                         Ifa Priest

MISSKAOKUDIANIMASAUN        -                                                              ESEVETA   OSHEVIRE                                           Councillor For Cooperative

DR. BODUNRIN ALADE-MARTIN -                                                              BLESSING KARIBO                                  Chief Medical Officer

MRS ABENI MAILO                                                                                       DANIELLA BARINAALE OMOR              Price Control Officer

ISOLA ORIEBORA                           -                                                              OTOBONG IME –UDOFIA                           A Traveller From Lagos

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