By KELVINMARY NDUKWE
When Ifeoma Fafunwa’s Hear Word first opened, something new hit the Nigerian theatre scene. The same thing happened when Bolanle Austen-Peters produced Nigeria’s high-flying musical, Saro. The markets and stages buzzed with monologues by Bimbo Akintola, Elvina Ibru, Kate Henshaw, Joke Silva amongst several other giants; while MUSON played host to a musical with a difference, featuring Gideon Okeke, Patrick Diabuah, Paul Alumona, Adesuwa Etomi and a host of dazzling performers. A new era had berthed.
Bolanle and Ifeoma have been consistent and have pushed the frontiers a bit further each time. No wonder Bolanle went further to produce Saro II and, most recently, the exceptionally brilliant Wakaa the musical, directed by her. Ifeoma had spent the same amount of time developing talents, mentoring actors and creating a female community of storytellers and performers. Both these women are directors, both strong voices and brilliant producers who understand the need for raising the bar in an industry they cherish. The women of the Nigerian theatre industry seem to be taking over the ship, with a keen sense of direction.
While I was screaming my lungs out, celebrating the feat of Ifeoma Fafunwa with a Nigerian story, in our language and with our finest female performers educating Harvard and Yale audience members, another one blew me away – Wakaa the musical makes a grand entry at London’s West end, telling another Nigerian story, the Nigerian way.
Nigerian theatre has survived hard times and has come of age. No doubt, the standard has been raised much higher, for this time around the performances will be by Nigeria’s finest. This is not the first time Nigerian theatre will show on a foreign stage, but this is the first time we understand the intent and this is the first time our strongest voices speak all at once. This is the first time the stage has been set this high as the world watches.
So if you will be in London for the most part of August this year, go and see Wakaa the musical. And if you want to know firsthand what Harvard and Yale think about Nigerian theatre, don’t be told, Ifeoma Fafunwa has got you covered.
My Naija people, HEAR WORD! We don WAKAA!