Strictly performed for a Lagos audience made up of 50, the June 23 premiere performance of Rain, written by Biyi Bandele, a UK based Nigerian playwright, poet and film director and directed by Toyin Oshinaike was a curtain raiser for the series of performances slated for July at the Esther’s Revenge, Freedom Park, Lagos.
It is not a coincidence that the play was staged in the rainy month of June as the award-winning piece treats some environmental themes with lines that referenced flooding. Devoid of a logical plot structure and dramatic conflict, absurdist drama is an avant-garde experiment in theatre, largely influenced by the traumatic experience of the horrors of the second-world war. As expected, the dialogue was a meaningless exchange, marked by repetitions. The two-hander technique was used by the playwright to create a story of two crazy street sweepers, Banza (Toritseju Ejoh)) and Lagbaja (Timi Charles Fadipe) who tell each other tall stories.
Set in an unconventional space- a lounge within the former colonial prison walls, Rain is one play that tests directorial skills more than acting skills. With seat arranged in clusters, the actors were tasked to perform around the spaces between tables and not just the centre stage which was made of two heaps of automobile tyres, dangling green ropes and a thick black polythene backdrop with handwritten texts, some of which read, “Eat sh*t” and “100 Million Flies.’’
In the absence of actual flies, the pillars in the venue constitute a major distraction.
Inspite of the dramatic oddity, the audience reeled in laughter at the incredible stories and witty lines. For instance, one of the exchanges went thus: “I met God yesterday” with the response “You met God? Oh My God!”
Heavy on buffoonery, Rain is just one of many absurdist plays that Toritseju Ejoh, an energetic actor had been involved since he graduated from the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Abuja.
“Well, luckily for me I have encountered a couple of them in my career spanning 13 years. I have also been involved in some plays that were not absurd but had absurd characters in them, it is just a lack of sequential reason. You just pick a part of the play and see how you can interprete it. I can assure you that there are four beautiful stories in the play,’’ he said after the opening show.
Biyi Bandele won the International Student Playscript competition of 1989 with Rain.