Nollywood Scoundrels is a parody with a subtle yet profound political message and a shock value, says Yinka Olatunbosun
For its title, one would expect to see a play about the Nigerian movie industry which is loosely described by the term “Nollywood”. That is the plot of the comedy titled, “Nollywood Scoundrels.’’ Two desperate filmmakers in need of a big break in Nollywood arrange for a special audition for the star actor.Several ridiculous personalities are encountered during the audition. Some have no real talent for acting; some will not listen to the director while others are present only for selfish reasons.
In its production at Terra Arena, Lagos, the playwright-director,Olasunkanmi Adebayo, carefully assembled a collage of diverse attitudes towards audition. Amongst these was a young girl with a compulsive selfie attitude; an unauthorized street drug seller, an indigenous actor with the ‘h’ factor; dancers without direction; aggressive individuals and finally, with some relief a very gifted actress. She was the last to be called in and was completely stunning. Unfortunately, the showstopper was not looking for an acting job. She only applied for “The Bank Audition’’ in hope of securing a job at a bank.
All effort to convince this exceptional talent went futile. She refused to be convinced that she was the best person for the role. This drama has a subtle political message: the best man or woman you may have encountered that has demonstrated sterling leadership qualities may have no interest in holding public office. Nollywood Scoundrels, asides being a social commentary, is an expose of the idiosyncrasies of the movie industry. It opens with the Assistant Director reeling out the names of popular Nollywood actors who were supposed to be present for the audition but typically arrive late or refuse to show up at all.
Although the characterisation in Nollywood Scoundrels may seem exaggerated, the director of the play claimed that the scenarios portrayed on stage are not different from the real off-screen intrigues that precede the actual shooting of a movie from his experience in the movie industry as a film director.
“I have worked with different producers, casting actors and having various experiences,’’ he explained. “I started jotting down my experiences and some of my personal frustrations at the Nollywood industry and I thought I could make a parody out of it. It is the story of the struggle of the regular young people in Nigeria. It was fun for me.
“I used to direct for some reality television shows like Project Fame and Nigerian Idol. When people see these characters at audition, they wonder if we hired them to amuse people. They just come. There is also a political undertone to the play. We have clowns in power. Misplaced people are occupying public offices and this is just a metaphor on our socio-political reality.’’
The play was first staged at the 2018 Lagos Theatre Festival and much later in the year, it was performed at the Lagos Country Club. In addition to the original cast, a few more were added to the June production to extend the production time by 20 minutes.