Yinka Olatunbosun reports that the premiere production of Night Food, directed by Kelvin Mary Ndukwe makes a spectacle of excellent showmanship.
Boisterous laughter filled the Terra arena last Sunday in Victoria Island as veteran comedian and actor, Tunji Sotimirin shows up on stage in the play, Night Food. That could have been 15 minutes into the play which started on a solemn and romantic note. A young couple, Ekene (Stan Eze) and Folake (Bunmi Sogade) are dealing with the loss of their only child. Confined to a wheelchair, Ekene blames himself for being helpless when the child was in crisis. It also coincided with the day his wife was away with her lover. Resting his fingers on the keyboard, it was a moment of reconciliation for him and his wife as he struggles to write songs. Folake who is also a singer is preoccupied with rehearsals. But Ekene understands the life of an artist so it was not an issue for him. However, he has a piece of news for his wife: his father-in-law and his three wives are on their way to pay them a condolence visit. Folake is hysterical. She believes her family members are very troublesome and will be critical of her daily routine. The argument that ensues heightens the suspense as the plot thickens.
The actual drama begins upon the arrival of Alhaji who has converted to a Christian but still carries the responsibility of caring for his three wives. Although he has divorced the first two wives, Alhaji who prefers to be called Brother Timothy remains married to Iya Folake (Mojisola Kadiri), the youngest of the wives. Predictably, they arrive, quarreling amongst themselves. The eldest wife, Iya Agba (Yinka Davies) is very level-headed and considerate but Iya Akeem (Bola Haastrup Atitebi), the second wife is always at loggerheads with Iya Folake. The house becomes a rollercoaster of emotional outbursts which stifles Ekene's creative output. But there is something that troubles Ekene more than his loss of a child and his wife's episode of infidelity. It is the emergence of Jay. Who is Jay? Well, it is this discovery leads to the resolution of the conflict that will later ensue.
It was a good call for the cast to be a blend of seasoned and young actors. Sotimirin proved to be a class act; stealing the show from the lead actor with his authentic characterisation and stage business. Known as a centre-stage actor, his appearance in the play added warmth to the plot which started off with a bit of lethargy. If Sotimirin is guilty of anything, it is probably the "overacted" scene with his son-in-law where he repeated, "Do not try this at home."
Kadiri, whose ear-straining voice delivered venomous lines, truly made up for the voice with great stage persona and strong acting skills. In fact, Yinka Davies was a real wonder with her well-tuned character. She subsumed her high-octane self to internalize the gentle character of Iya Agba and still made her lines humorous to the audience quite effortlessly. A case in point is her innocent question, "What is muse?" which conveyed the character's ignorance of how the creative mind works.
Night Food is heavy on the theme of marital infidelity alongside the subject matters of polygamy, love, sex, death and survival. Infidelity is one of the leading causes of divorce and unhappy marriages today. Some married men see it as harmless fun but as for their affected spouses, it is a show of betrayal, a mark of rejection and a destruction of the companionship upon which the marital union is founded. Iya Agba, the first wife has been reduced to a mediator and a mock domestic deity rather than being treated as an emotional person with needs and desires. But the director and his cast made those serious issues laughable without failing to warn the audience of the risks and unhappiness that result from infidelity and polygamy.
Through Iya Folake, the play questions song-writing as a career choice while revealing the disparity between the older and younger generations' way of thinking. Family interference which is even more destructive than infidelity in some cases is brought to the fore through the character of Iya Akeem. In reality, many marriages and relationships had been broken because a party allows family members to meddle in what ought to be his or her personal life.
In technical terms, the low-budget play uses a simple set, with electronic backdrop and a soulful soundtrack throughout the play. The stage for the one-act play was moderately lit. Regrettably, the play started almost an hour behind schedule for its first run and the audience had to rely on hand-held torch to illuminate their walkways and stairs in the absence of footlights.
Night Food continues throughout the Sundays in month of September at the Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos.