Talent fused with creativity last Saturday when a play, Once Upon An Elephant, written by Bosede Ademilua-Afolayan (PhD), a lecturer in the University of Lagos, was staged.
The play performance, handled by the first year students of English, Creative Arts and Education departments of the university as part of the Theatre Workshop course, revealed the dramatic potential of the young scholars.
Many of the audience comprising students, lecturers, art lovers and critics commended the efforts of the director, Saheed Bello, after watching the play satirising the sit-tight syndrome of African leaders. Ademilua-Afolayan has never left anyone in doubt of her ingenuity as a playwright. In 2012, her play, Look Back in Gratitude, a textual reference to John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger won inspiring reviews from critics who were impressed with its staging by a set of first year students.
Also, Once Upon An Elephant explores similar themes distillable in some play texts by celebrated playwrights such as Wole Soyinka and Femi Osofisan among others.
Through characters such as power-drunk King Olaniyonu a.k.a Ajanaku, the grey-haired Iya agba who is one of the wives of former king Akinjobi, mischief-personified Serubawon including other major characters, the playwright exceptionally deepened her preoccupation in a way that left the audience asking for more.
The university’s Art Theatre, venue of the performance, was gripped by suspense as the playwright artistically struck a denouement for the play resonating richness in drums, props, make-up, set design, costumes and lighting.
Ademilua-Afolayan said the play examined the issue of dictatorship of African leaders at different levels of governance.
She said, ‘‘It amuses me why a mortal would want to achieve immortality either by prolonging his or her stay in office or by wanting to play god in the lives of other men. This issue has begotten several plays by seasoned dramatists such as Soyinka’s A Play of Giants, Opera Wonyosi, Kongi’s Harvest and King Baabu, Osofisan’s Yungba Yungba and the Dance Contest, Ahmed Yerima’s Ade Ire and Uncle Venyil and Hope Eghagha’s Onowawi Shall Rise Again.’’
The lecturer added that the recurrence of the theme showed something was wrong with African politics.
‘‘Such an aberration has also been culturally dealt with in Yoruba folklore from which this play derives its title. The play’s uniqueness rests on its use of suspense and irony. Above all, it highlights the role of women as cause and solution-provider in a story in which they may be complicit,’’ Ademilua-Afolayan stated.