The 5th edition of Lagos Theatre Festival (LTF), 2018, came to an end on Sunday, March 4. It took place at 12 different venues across the Island, Mainland and other remote parts of the state. The event, a one-week programme, began on February 27, and had up to 100 shows in both the ‘curated’ and ‘fringe’ sections. It had ‘Theatre in Unconventional spaces’ as theme and focused on innovative interpretations of new ideas that would inspire and challenge the audience, while promoting new works that spark conversations and debates.
Initiated by British Council Nigeria in 2013 and the United Kingdom’s cultural organisation, LTF served as platform for theatre practitioners, especially upcoming ones, in Nigeria to stage works and grow their audiences.
The curated section featured six productions with over 20 shows, while the fringe section had over 80 shows to the delight of theatre audience. The festival also had workshops and training sections in acting, scriptwriting and development and some other theatre-related topics. Also on display were other art forms music, variety shows and visual arts among others.
One of the workshops held on Friday, March 2, at Freedom Park, was ‘Women in the Arts’ forum. At the workshop women professionals in all genres of arts gathered to discuss how to promote women works in the ecosystem and how to help women overcome the challenges hindering them from developing their potentials to the fullest. With the sub-theme ‘Pressing for Change: Women who Disrupt Creatively,’ speakers included Brenda Uphopho, Convener, Women in the Arts and Producer, Lagos Theatre Festival; Ojoma Ochai, Director, British Council Arts; Olubunmi Aboderin-Talabi, author and publisher, Clever Clogs Books; Donna Ogunaike; Israel Moura Mendes, Arts Partnership Manager, British Council, Scotland; and Dr. Kemi Dasilva-Ibru, founder, Women at Risk International Foundation.
In all, the women committed themselves to remain steadfast, focused and exhibit a high sense of creativity in their fields, while ignoring the societal tag of inferiority. They further argued that the modern world has opened more opportunities for women in the art to showcase their talent without fear of failure. As such, they advised women to go all out and explore their potential and become legends in the industry.
A stage play by Donna Ogunaike titled Strelitzia, in spoken words, was performed to the admiration of the audience. The play depicts how people get entangled in past memories and do not make efforts to emancipate themselves from their past in order to achieve their full potential. With it, Ogunaike hopes to teach the audience that although it is necessary for one to recollect past events and reflect on them, they should however not hinder one from moving forward and achieving their desired goals.
In her words: “Strelitzia helps the audience to free themselves from pent up inner tensions and trauma of the past, which may hinder their individual and group attainment of freedom.”Apart from Strelitzia, Ogunaike had another play titled Love like Slave.
The festival ended with Art Stampede and featured an array of the crème de la crème of Lagos’ arts, and had as theme ‘Stage of our Theatre: Criticisms in an Era of High Productivity,’ theme. It focused on the dismal decline of reviews and criticism of art works.
Panel included Director, IOpenEye Productions, Ifeoma Fafunwa; Director of Arts, British Council, Ojoma Ochai; and Director, Renegade Theatre, Wole Oguntokun.Important dignitaries who graced the event were Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, who was the special guest of honour; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr. Fola Adeyemi; CEO, Total Consult Ltd, Mr. Theo Lawson; Special Adviser, Arts and Culture, Mrs. Aramide Giwanson; Nollywood veteran, Olu Jacobs and his wife, Joke Silva; filmmaker, Mr. Kunle Afolayan; Founder, QDance, Mr. Qudus Onikeku; actor, Tunji Sotimirin, and cinematographer, Mr. Tunde kelani among others.
The stampede had two segments – a special session on Lagos Theatre Plan with Mr. Ayorinde and an open house discussion with the panel. In his speech, Ayorinde outlined projects of Lagos State Government for the art industry. He said six new theatres were being built on the Island, Mainland and extreme parts of the state and that the proposed theatres were being modeled after Terra Kulture Theatre.
Ayorinde expressed the hope that the theatres would be completed by 2020. He also noted that the state government would have a master plan of art events for the state in its calendar year. This master plan, he emphasised, would serve as a guide to both art practitioners, the public and the government on the various art festivals, events and shows scheduled to take place at a particular time. The calendar, he said, would be worked out for the next 15 to 20 years.
The commissioner also stated that government hopes to promote art and culture in the state so that it could also be a source of tourist attraction.Ayorinde disclosed that Lagos State Government would collaborate with local and international bodies to showcase different works of arts, as a way of encouraging the arts and boosting tourism.
He noted that there’s a need to broaden the scope of arts and culture events to other parts of the state, apart from the Island and Mainland, stating that it would bring those living in those areas of Lagos to have a feel of the arts and participate fully. He disclosed that government is planning to organise an eight-day art festival.
ON the panel on theatre criticism, members made submissions on why there is a decline. Ochai blamed it on the inadequate infrastructure to power the ecosystem of creativity. Oguntokun stated that it was as a result of shallow reviews of plays by both art critics and the media, as those who supposed to be critising plays are engaged in other professions. Fafunwa opined that it is caused by the stigmatisation of critics and art reviewers, as they are seen as being mentally deranged by performers and directors, who take offense at what they do. She also stated that the youth were either not interested in art criticism or they don’t even understand how to go about it.
A group of people in the audience observed that the curriculums for Theatre Arts, Mass Communication and Communication Arts in universities have become outdated and need to be upgraded to include innovative courses. According to them, failure to do this would make the challenge the arts is facing to linger on.