Seasoned actress, Zara Udofia-Ejoh, might have for long been confident that she could rattle the audience with suspense and surprise any day. Good for her because she is a committed artist. But the same genre is capable of teasing her with a big surprise.
This she learnt on March 27 when the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners played a fast game on her. It was at the World Theatre Day, where, with the support of the Lagos State Government, NANTAP staged Efua Sutherland’s popular play, Marriage of Anansewa. The performance by the Ghana National Theatre, which collaborated with NANTAP, was held at the MUSON Centre, Lagos.
The Isreal Eboh-led association had invited the actress fondly called Zara almost the same way it did many other lovers of the stage. The difference was that it urged her to dress beautifully because, according to NANTAP, she would be called to present an award to one of the people that it would honour in the course of the event. To her surprise, however, she happened to be the real person the Thespians were celebrating. When she was thus called to the stage, it was not for her to present a plaque to anyone but to be given a distinguished service award. The suspense and applause she earned touched her heart.
She expressed gratitude to NANTAP, which also honoured the MUSON Centre for its contribution to the development of the industry, and promised further commitment to the trade. According to her, a major fruit of her journey in theatre is many great people she has come across.
Many members of the audience have not only watched the Marriage of Anansewa many times, a good number of them have also played roles in it while others have directed the play. Yet, the performance presented an inspiring experience because the Ghanaian troupe turned it into a musical. The story – of a poor man who decides to play games with multiple suitors for her daughter in order to make money – unfolded in direct acting, songs and dance, with highlife and folk claiming a commanding share. The music that ferried the play from comic to fake-tragic and back to comic plains was largely professional even if not as festive as many people would have loved it to be.
The Ghana delegation, which consisted of about 25 cast and crew members, was led by the Executive Director National Theatre of Ghana, Amy Appiah Frimpong. The Lagos State Government had listed the programme among the ones it was supporting for the year, based on a calendar rolled out by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Arts. The state’s Director, Council of Arts and Culture, Saidat Odulana, who represented Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, saluted the practitioners and promised further support for the industry.
While producer and director, Greg Odutayo, delivered a goodwill message on behalf of the International Theatre Institute, NANTAP President, Eboh, described theatre artistes as people who show the light.
“As artistes, we must be bold to know that our calling is noble and that our business will not survive on the patronage of government or institutions built on ‘tokenism’, but on our own doggedness to continue to operate even in the most unpredictable environment wherein we have found ourselves,” he said.
The Chairman, Lagos State branch of NANTAP, Adeniran Makinde, also congratulated the thespians on the occasion and commended the state’s government for the release of official cultural calendar.
Earlier, the Lagos State Council of Arts and Culture presented an adaptation of Femi Osofisan’s Fires Burn and Die Hard, a socio-cultural and political play.