23 December 2012

Nigeria: The Making of King Ijudiya, an Adapted Christmas Story


Ayo Jaiyesimi is the writer of Mad King of Ijudiya, a stage play expected to flag off at the Muson Centre, Lagos next week. In this interview with Vanguard, the playwright shares her experience about how she realised this seemingly theatrical accomplishment.

You are staging a play this season, what is this about and where are you staging it?

'Mad King of Ijudiya,' is an adaptation of the Christmas story and is a really exciting play that features a rich blend of folklore, traditional dance and music that naturally transports the audience to a typical African village setting. The story is about an awed King - King Ero ba ni'se, the great King of Ijudiya, who in the discovery of a rival within his territory, 'flips his lid' completely and goes to an outrageous extent to prove that he is the one ordained by the gods to rule. Even more annoying to the King is the discovery that the new entrant on the scene is a mere child. In order to eliminate the encroachment on his sovereignty by this rather strange opposition, Ero ba ni'se tries by all means to get him out of the way.The play will be showing at the Agip Hall, Muson Centre, Onikan from Saturday 29thto Sunday 30thDecember 2012.

Is there truly a Town called Ijudiya? What is Ijudiya like?

Ijudiya is a make-belief province and like Nigeria, held to ransom by various systems Leaders -in their 'self-seeking' at times become tyrants; this cuts across religious, political, traditional leaders and at times, 'captains' of industry ; Followers- either too timid to demand good leadership or totally blinded by tribal, religious, class divides or any other factors that make them myopic thereby preventing them from seeing the 'big picture' and this relegates them to living in conditions that are less than what God has ordained; Sycophants- who constantly attach themselves to the King's courtyard, gleaning off the power, fame and enrichment, forgetting their mandates of service, empowerment and protection of their people; Oracles- represented in the greatness of our 'intellect"culture'and 'values'.

Our Intellect-Nigerians are brilliant and all over the world have contributed to the development of countries that they find themselves, proffering solutions and distinguishing themselves in those locations but this very often is a stumbling block back home in our motherland. The intellectual laurels become battlefields - battles for individual recognition pulling down teamwork and passion to elevate others, big-talk-no-walk, cruel criticism - without trying to 'build our bits of the broken bridges.

Your previous stage play, The Five Maids of Fadaka' was terrific! Tell us about it...

The Five Maids of Fadaka was a really successful theatre outing and had really good reviews. Apart from the values and lessons woven into my stories, I 'show off' the rich heritage we have as a nation and flaunt the diversities that we have, which if pulled together, makes us a truly unique nation. I am PROUDLY NIGERIAN!

Nigeria is really blessed when it comes to the performing arts and literature. Our folklore, our literature, our dance, our drama are not only very colourful, but also very expressive. The Mad King of Ijudiya captures all this and I am sure you will agree that this message is apt, considering what we are going through as a nation.

What do you do for a living? Are you a Performing Artiste? Where did you get your inspiration?

I am a Human Resource Practitioner and Chartered Accountant, with varied work experience in the Public Service, Consulting and the Financial Services Industry. As part of my contribution to community, myself and other professionals with the same vision and passion set up the Societal Positive Impact Initiative(SPIIN). SPIIN has organs through which we try to make an impact on society and one of them is the Thespian Family Theatre. Other organs include a Youth Resource Centre and OMF Foundation for Asthma. The Chairman of SPIIN, Mr. Clement Baiye and 11 other senior professionals form the nucleus of SPIIN.

I am passionate about youth mentoring and change. I am also an avid lover of contemporary and theatre arts, and I have been able to express my love for the arts through the THESPIAN Family Theatre. The Mad King of Ijudiya, as with most of my plays such as the Five Maids of Fadaka, Okunrin Ogun and Siddon de Look, is a highly entertaining drama piece, mixed with dance and folklore. Tunji Sotimirin, lecturer in the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos and a very popular name in the world of Creative Arts had directed two of my plays. Tunji is a very popular face on stage and Nigerian television programmes. This production is however being directed by Abiola Segun Williams, a popular face on the TV Soap Opera 'Tinsel'.

Where does your inspiration come from?

My inspiration comes from what I believe in. I believe that Man is a product of his own thoughts and aspirations' - Proverbs 22:9. we believe in is therefore very important. Our parents shaped our beliefs with folklore and stories and for many of us it helped develop our values.

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