As is so indicative to native Nigeria, the stage is awash with a rainbow of brilliant colour portraying the kaleidoscopic patterns of African yarn. As I slide into my seat I feel a sense of foreboding, desperately hoping that the characterisation is just as vibrant – and I’m delightfully not disappointed.
The formidable Patrice Nalambana takes the stage, his natural build and authoritative presence already filling the small stage of the Arcola Theatre before any words need be uttered. Moving with stealth, his actions are slow yet purposeful around the open space, making sure we are quickly aware it is his kingdom that we have been invited to observe. His characters name is apt, ‘Greatness Ogholi’ and thus he welcomes the audience by booming a personal greeting of ‘Fellow Nigerians…’ which sets the pace for the remaining hour and thirty (or so) minutes.
The opening monologue, though lengthy, is perfectly spattered with much satire and frivolity that is both engaging and compelling; a continued trait throughout this play, created by Oladipo Agboluaje. Much of it is addressed directly to the audience, encouraging our active involvement and in it we learn of Greatness’ intentions to contest the presidential election through the founding of the somewhat unsupported, People’s Revolutionary Party. Greatness is soon joined by several well-defined characters played by a cast of two equally superb actors, Tunde Euba and Marcy Dolapo Oni, and all three are committed to tell the story of the fight for a politically precarious country.
In his play, Oladipo has captured the passions of the Nigerian culture perfectly as each character seeks to position themselves in the highest seat of power, both politically and relationally. Not only are we observing the intricate workings of the Nigerian political system, but we are also offered a beautiful insight into how any relationship can be strongly affected when only one person’s goals are realised whether that be in business, friendship or marriage.
Directed by Rosamunde Hutt, New Nigerians brings to life the precarious political system of the Nigerian government through the plight of one man’s goals to run for president. At no point does author, Oladipo Agboluaje, shy away from the hard-hitting truths of a governmental system plagued by corruption, but by placing the subject into the hands of a character that seems genuine in his desire to bring change, we can follow his story filled with the same degree of fantastical hope.
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