A scene from the play
Aboriginal Theatre’s production last weekend of Fractures, an adaptation of American Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, offered a spectacular view into the lives of Africa’s economic migrants abroad and the sometimes, impossible lives they are forced to live just to survive their strange environment. London, England, offers one such get-away destination from Africa and Nigeria’s harsh economic realities. But there’s another kind of reality in the new economic haven that is totally at variance with the values back home that a new cultural environment imposes.
Fractures is at once hilarious and tragic and combines swift action and scene changes to achieve a high end dramatic offering that got the audience with rollicking fun.
Fractures had an assemblage of top actors that held their own. Ropo Ewenla (Idris) is a father-figure uncle, whose strange love for his late wife’s sister’s daughter, Toju (Beverly Naya) goes beyond the ordinary and results in tragic accident. Nike (Funmi Eko-Eze) is his homely wife, who remains blind to the illicit romance growing under her nose; and there is the London lawyer, Mr. Johnson (Tunji Sotimirin), on whom falls the responsibility of providing both legal and social advice to the migrants so they stay on the side of the law.
Then there are the new immigrants just arrived from Nigeria, Dayo (Patrick Diabuah) and Jide (Gideon Okeke), who are desperate for a better life away from the harshness of a recessed economy. Dayo is Nike’s brother, whose five-year old daughter has a hole in her heart; he urgently needs a job to save enough for her operation. Jide is Dayo’s right hand man and he has brought him in tow to London for a new lease on life. Dayo is a danfo driver in Lagos; he doesn’t own the bus; he’s a hireling and doesn’t make enough. London is promised economic haven and they rely on Idris’ family to give a new life.
Dayo and Jide arrive Idris’ London apartment in great excitement. But as soon as sleek Jide sets eyes on Toju, his heart does a summersault. He can’t take his eyes away from her; Toju, too, is love-struck. Both youngsters hit it off at once. But Idris is not taking it. Over the years, while bringing up Toju, a sort of unusual closeness has developed between her and Idris. Although a young woman, Toju still sits on Idris’ laps, a baby’s habit she is yet to discard, which Idris revels in. Back in Nigeria, such displays would be frowned upon. Also, Nike, who ought to forbid it, seems less concerned until it begins to interfere with her love life with her husband. But by now, it appears a certain unforbidden element has crept into Toju and Idris’ closeness that is unacceptable to common decency.
However, the coming of Jide violently disrupts this unholy relationship. Idris is riled beyond measure. He cannot fathom why Toju should choose Jide over him. He begins to scheme how to thwart the budding love tangle between his niece and Jide, the upstart, who is fast becoming the toast of London’s entertainment circuit; there’s Mickey, the Jamaican, who sees Jide as the new entertainment kid on block with his dexterity on the music turntable.
DAYO and Jide settle in idris’ apartment in London; Idris get them jobs, where he works, but they are still illegal immigrants until they get their papers. The fear of immigration officers is the beginning of wisdom. But as it begins to dawn on Idris that his Toju is slipping out of his reach, that he can no longer get the usual cuddling from her, with Jide taking over her life, he schemes fast. First, he agrees to send her to the acting school he initially objects to just to get her out of Jide’s reach.
But he acts too late; Toju and Jide’s love has bloomed too high. Idris seeks the advice of Mr. Johnson to the effect that there must be something illegal in Jide’s love tangle with Toju. Mr. Johnson’s advice that Idris’s pursuit is futile doesn’t wash on him, who is bent on dealing Jide a blow that would shatter whatever budding love there is between him and his beloved niece.
Idris then executes his last act of revenge on Jide’s unconscionable love for his Toju. He calls on immigration office about the presence of illegal migrants in his neighbour’s apartment, Mrs. Akpan (Bola Haastrup), where Dayo and Jide have relocated since Idris drove them away. But this is not after Idris initially sets up Jide to marry a white woman who would ensure he becomes a legal citizen. But it is Idris’ ploy to keep Toju from Jide; at the last moment, Jide pulls out. His love for Toju is so overwhelming he cannot go ahead with the fake marriage with a woman he does not know just for legal documents. Idris is bitter. He calls in immigration.
Toju returns from her acting school in time to confront Jide about the said marriage, Jide explains his side, and tells her it’s her uncle’s scheme. They decide to marry; Toju wants them to relocate to Nigeria if only to get away from Idris’ schemes and bitterness. But Jide knows better than to agree to such leap in the dark, a situation that brought them to London in the first place.
When Idris’ treachery blow open, Dayo, whose sick daughter’s prospect of getting treatment because of his imminent deportation, takes it out on Idris for thwarting his plan dims to save his daughter. They come to blows and both pull weapons. But when Idris strikes at Dayo, his wife, Nike, has stepped between them. She receives the knife blow, falls down and dies to bring to a tragic denouement a filial love interference that disrupts a healthy love tangle between two young hearts.
FRACTURES, produced by Nike Taylor and directed by Kenneth Uphopho, is a classic dramatisation of a slice of some immigrants’ lives and how one man, obsessed with an unusual love for his niece, comes to a tragic end. Ewenla as Idris the obsessed uncle, Okeke as Jide the sleek lover-boy entangled with Naya as Toju, the elfin, love-struck young lady; and then rough-hewn, desperate Diabuah as Dayo, who is in race to save his daughter; Eko-Ezeh as loving wife, who wizens up too late to her husband’s tabooed love for her niece and Sotimirin as Mr. Johnson, the legal and social counselor, who sees it all.
Fractures deserves a restaging (with the right corporate sponsorship and branding) as a commentary on contemporary Nigeria and the social re-engineering the country needs so a formidable society can emerge. That way, the Idris of this world would not forget the law of decency governing social relationships among family members to avoid the trap he falls into that earns him a tragic end. At the end, Jide and Toju triumph in their love.