The ‘Performing Arts Workshop and Studios’ (PAWS); one of the foremost and reputable theatre company dedicated to the development of talent in performing arts has once again broken records with the performance of Wole Soyinka’s award winning play ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’ which was staged on 22nd July and 29th July 2012 at Terra Kulture. This performance also marks the end of ‘A Harvest with Soyinka’; a celebration of Drama sketches and play of the Nobel Laureate, which includes ‘Home to Roost’, ‘Obstacle Race’, ‘Press Conference’, ‘Priority Project’, ‘Symbolic Peace Symbolic Gift’ and ‘Childe Internationale’ which was also staged in the first three weeks in July 2012.
The impact of colonialism by the Whites on Africans was brought to the audience awareness in ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’. Soyinka in this play tries to look at how both cultures find it hard to understand the belief systems of the other and also how the District Officer of the province; Simon Pilking whom is regarded to have come from a more ‘civilized’ culture stops the Eleshin Oba from fulfilling his destiny which is to commit suicide in order to accompany the dead king to the heaven as made clear by Joseph to the Pilkings’ who regards it as a ‘barbaric’ custom. This brings about tragic circumstances in the land as the ‘young shoot’ (Olunde) sacrifices himself for the land instead of the ‘parent stalk’ (Eleshin) who is saddled with the responsibility. The intellectual thrust of this play can be found in Soyinka’s essay; ‘The Fourth Stage: Through The Mysteries of Ogun to the Origin of Yoruba Tragedy’ which is an analysis of the Yoruba concept of tragedy.
The production process according to the director was a stressful and challenging one due to the performance history of the play and the fact that it is the play that won the writer a Nobel prize for Literature n 1986, which automatically makes it dear to him. According to the director, first week of rehearsals was dedicated to reading and analysis of the play by members of cast and crew in order to understand the playwright’s intention and not pursue the play from the angle of ‘Culture Clash’ which the playwright frowns at, but from the point of ‘Duty’ from the Western Culture and Traditional Culture, which was brought to realization by thrilling performances from principal characters in the play: Eleshin Oba (Patrick Diabuah), Praise Singer (Kenneth Uphopho), Iyaloja (Temitope Omobolanle Haastrup-Atitebi), Simon Pilkings (Seun Kentebe), Jane Pilkings (Adeola Shinaba), Olunde (Austin Onuoha) and Amusa (Omololu Shodiya)
The play received a standing ovation during the performance on the 22nd and 29th July and according to some member of the audience, the play has never been performed to the point of understanding due to the elevated and poetic language of the play which makes it pretty difficult to comprehend with. Some also appraise the director for having stage the play with 21cast which has never been done before owing to the large cast in the play.
The production company over the past 4months has staged plays by writers of great repute which includes; ‘Oh! How Dearly I Detest Thee’ by Jeanne Libondo in April 2012, ‘Rubiewe’ an adaptation of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in May 2012, and ‘Midnight Blackout’ by Femi Osofisan in June 2012, all directed by one of the most talented directors in the Nigerian theatre industry; Kenneth Uphopho and stage managed by Ibukun Fasunhan. According to the Associate Producer; Brenda Uphopho, the theatre company will be going on a recess to be back on October 2012 with a repeat of ‘Rubiewe’ an adaptation of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ which is being brought back on stage by popular demand.
CAST OF ‘DEATH AND THE KING’S HORSEMAN’
Eleshin Oba – Patrick Diabuah
Praise Singer – Kenneth Uphopho
Iyaloja – Temitope Omobolanle Haastrup-Atitebi
Simon Pilkings – Seun Kentebe
Jane Pilkings – Adeola Shinaba
Olunde – Austin Onuoha
Amusa – Omololu Shodiya
Joseph – Ibukun Fasunhan
Resident – Emmanuel Nlemadim
Aide-de-camp – Fabian Alozie
Bride – Temiloluwa Paul
Girls – Uvie Egbejuma, Ayobami Joseph
Women – Adewunmi Omowunmi, Esther Umeonwujiobi, Adenike Idika, Ijeoma Onyemaechi, Michelle Ekure
Guards – Olatubosun Igbasanmi, Olatunji Odufuwa
Singer/Chants – Folashade Orobiyi
Drummers – Taiwo Adesoji, Ojo Victor
CREW OF ‘DEATH AND THE KING’S HORSEMAN’
Associate Producer – Brenda Uphopho
Technical/Set and Logistics – Ikenna Jude Okpala
Lights – One House Lighting Crew
Props – Olatunji Odufuwa
Stage Manager – Ibukun Fasunhan
Director – Kenneth Uphopho.