The iconic scene of Ibadan’s Wole Soyinka Art Theater University came to life with the performance of “The Engagement,” a satire on a marriage proposal written by Femi Osofisan. The performance which took place from December 26 to 27, 2021 was produced by the Government College Ibadan Class of ’89 and sponsored by ensemble member Pastor Olusegun Onayinka to honor the memory of his late father Gbegande Olusegun Onayinka an elderly school boy. The show was designed to bring families together during holiday periods under the theme “GCI CLASS ’89 FAMILY DRAMA OUTING”.
It is no mere coincidence that a school reputed to have produced literary giants and very notable actors in the Nigerian theater and film industry will lead the charge to revive theatrical performances not only in Ibadan but in Nigeria. , as the words of the executive producer show. . The trajectory of this inaugural outing gave strong credibility to the mission. The old school boys staged a play, named after an iconic old school boy, written by another global ambassador for the school.
In his welcome speech, the chairman of the set, Tolulope Fadulu, recalled that GCI students were well known for putting on plays which were greeted with applause. Tolulope Fadulu explained that GCI had a very dynamic drama company founded in 1955 by the principal of the school at the time, Briton MJD Bullock. The drama society had the late theater teacher and director of the play FESTAC ’77 LANGBODO, Professor Dapo Adelugba, as its pioneer president. He further recalled that the drama society has state-of-the-art theater equipment and facilities.
Set social / PRO secretary Samsideen Adesiyan, who directed and performed the play, said it was selected because of its minimal cast and the theme it covered. The Commitment, according to the director, touched on a very important question that is as relevant today as it was many years ago when it was written. Adesiyan observed that the play provided important insight into the basis of conflict and crisis in marriages, noting that many enter the institution for reasons other than love and compatibility.
The piece opened with Chief Medayekan, a retired army officer turned farmer and pretentious musician, as well as Ronke’s father, a long-awaited daughter, polishing his new composition. Elemude, his farmer friend and song partner, arrives to propose to Ronke. This is not just an unexpected request, but an uneven match as Elemude and Ronke have nothing in common except the need to find mates. Elemude at the time of announcing his intention is already forty-two years old and is mired in several health crises due to hard work on the farm. Ronke, on the other hand, is a highly educated, local beauty, who has also spent too much time in her father’s house as a bachelor. The Engagement is therefore a play about two desperate individuals and a father eager to get rid of his unmarried daughter.
Chief Medayekan the retired soldier was played by Gideon Oluwamonure, Theater Arts graduate Ronke was played by Tomilola Ojelade a microbiologist who answered the call to the stage and Samsideen Adesiyan, Theater Arts graduate and lawyer played the role of Elemude the pretender.
From the outset, it was obvious that the actors intended to thrill the audience without restraint. Elemude got the ball rolling with her dance steps scattered across the drum and the somewhat melodious air of Chief Medayekan before declaring her intention with trepidation. Much to Elemude’s shock, Chief Medayekan was happy to have him as a suitor for his daughter and as a future brother-in-law. An impatient Medayekan seized the moment to surreptitiously inform Elemude that he had long waited for the day when he would be man enough to come for Ronke as she had always been “in love” with him. However, the task fell on Elemude to personally ask for Ronke’s hand. The task turned out to be too much for the shy, clumsy and cantankerous Elemude. Elemude’s inability to put his finger on his head at the earliest opportunity has led to arguments between the two lovebirds over ownership of farmland and who has the best hunting dog. A seemingly harmless argument quickly led to slurs and name-calling that pitted the steadfast Elemude against Ronke and his father, Chief Medayekan, though the two eventually agreed to be together.
The director showed a full understanding of the context of the play with the use of space, the interpretations of the characters and the colorful modulations of the lines. Elemude’s costume reflected an overly sophisticated “man of the bush” anxious to please the local aristocratic lady. The actors’ mastery of their lines allowed for a smooth delivery that made it easy for audiences to follow the plot. For a comedy largely driven by pure English without the local pidgin inflection, this was no small task. The dialogues drive the characterizations, and the actors using the Queen’s English have the added task of making it pleasing to the ears, especially when the audience is the one whose ears easily pick up the nuances of the local dialects.
Playwright Professor Emeritus Femi Osofisan who was present at the performance in his remarks congratulated the cast and GCI for the initiative, noting that there is an urgent need to revive live performances, especially for the generation current that grows on film culture and sketches on social networks. Echoing the same sentiment, Alhaji Oyewale Adesiyan, former Minister of Police Affairs, said he had a great time and the experience changed his perspective on theater and performing. Another old boy from Government College Ibadan, veteran broadcaster and former managing director of the Oyo State Broadcasting Corporation, Mr. Yanju Adegbite said the occasion aroused nostalgic feelings and was a reminder of his days as a actor under the tutelage of Professor Bode Sowande. another old boy who runs the theater troupe – Odu Themes, just like conductor Tunde Odunlade, the famous painter and theater enthusiast who runs the Tunde Odunlade Arts and Connexions in Ibadan also noted that the experience brought him back to life old memories and hoped will continue.