Fela and Kalakuta Girls to premiere in December at Terra Kulture Arena theatre. PHOTO: TWITTER
It was a moment of glory for the boss of Nigeria’s foremost culture centre, Terra Kulture, Mrs. Bolanle Austen-Peters, as her new offering and Nigeria’s first privately-owned theatre, Terra Kulture Arena, opened last weekend in Lagos. The ultra modern, 450-seater theatre outfit opened to guests from all walks of life, who had come to felicitate with Austen-Peters in themaking of a dream, a woman who has established for herself an enviable reputation in the promotion of Nigeria’s arts and culture.
Guests included Prof. Pat Utomi, Femi Gbajabiamila, Atedo Peterside, Olu Jacob and Joke Silver, Steve Ayorinde, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Prof. Ademola Abass, Jahman Anikulapo, Teju Kareem, Kunle Afolayan. The list was endless.
They all came to witness one woman’s realisation of a dream that had long become a nightmare in the absence of structures for the performing arts. Now, it’s farewell to a major lack that has hindered a sector with vibrant performers and teeming talents.
And as Austen-Peters made clear on the night, corporate Nigeria will have no excuses to turn their noses against the performing arts. More than ever before, she said, value would be added to the raw and wasting talents that are in abundance and waiting for opportunities to excel. While she acknowledged the need for corporate sponsors to look at the possible figures that could come out of a performance, she, however, stressed that there was the value-orientation the arts give that far trumps such figures, adding that the multiplier effects of job-creation, unemployment reduction and the entertainment the arts and culture sector provides are things that should not to be taken for granted.
Austen-Peters, who appeared in what she called ‘my Michael Jackson outfit,’ said the realisation of Terra Kulture Arena was because of the belief certain individuals had in her, coupled with her spirit of determination to pull it through. She noted that the time to ignore the arts has since passed, as practitioners of all shades – dancers, singers, set designers, performers, lighting men and women, costumiers and musicians were all university graduates (not drop-outs) from far-flung backgrounds as medicine, engineering, science, politics and what have you.
She, therefore, sued for respect for the performance profession and its practitioners, who she said also deserve better wages for a better life, as they bring joy to others.
Those who missed the Lagos performance of Wakaa the Musical, that also toured London at The Shaw Theatre, would have the chance to catch up on the show again every Sunday in April. Now, with Terra Kulture Arena, stage production will be a regular affair. In December, Nigerians will have see behind-the-scene lifestyle of late music maverick Fela, titled Fela and the Kalakuta Girls.
Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, represented by his Commissioner for Information and Stategy, Ayorinde, and Minister of Information and Culture, Mohammed, commended Austen-Peters for establishing a new structure for the arts, saying it was the right way to go for the realisation of the abundant potentials in that sector.
Mohammed noted, “The frequency and quality of productions in the performing arts are, however, constrained by the inadequacy of funding, technical training, management and infrastructure.
“Nevertheless, against many odds, what we are witnessing here today is the future starting now. Terra Kulture is a pacesetter in this regard and deserves a round of applause.
An important contributor to the development of the performing arts in developed countries has been consistent domestic demand for the creative output of the artist.
“The lack of assignment of adequate value to the arts leads to a lack of appreciation of the time and effort that goes into a production and therefore an unwillingness to pay for the real value of the work of artists.”
On the night, guests were treated to eclectic performances at the opening of Terra Kulture Arena theatre. They were made to feel the different performance genres the theatre will be hosting over the years and how there would be something for each taste, entertainment-wise.
Lagos Modern Orchestra, led by Seun Owoaje, opened the evening performances with soul renditions in Yoruba. Ayo Ajayi, who Austen-Peters acknowledged as the in-house music director and composer of original scores, had a brilliant night with his team of musicians. He has been phenomenal since the days of Saro the Musical and through Wakaa the Musical, with his band of musicians playing to every musical note, whether traditional, classical or pop.
With the new Terra Kulture Arena setting, however, the musicians will be hidden from most of the audience for a better part of performances even though their dexterity will be what would make the difference between the success or otherwise of a production.
It was mostly performance skits to wet the appetites of guests and patrons from Brymo, to skits from Saro and Wakaa, a South African performance, and Phantom of the Opera. Capping the performances was a preview of Fela and the Kalakuta Girls, which will be a behind-scene peep into the lives of Fela’s harem, women who danced for him and also became his wives. It would be Austen-Peters’ revivalist narrative performance of often the forgotten but important part of the music icon’s larger-than-life personality.
However, particular care should be taken in the grooming of the lead act. With the brief preview, it is clear a successful Fela character is still far from being realised with Flyod Igbo, who did his best but was yet to get into the maverick Fela frame.
A more mature actor, who isn’t exuberant but deliberate in his words, action and movement would be a better Fela rather than the character on stage on Sunday night. It is hoped that by December, Bolanle Austen-Peters Production would have perfected the performance to beat even America-led Fela on Broadway!
It’s the genuine expectation also that Terra Kulture Arena will lead to further birthing of dreams in the theatre direction, given Nigeria’s bandwagon mentality. Both Austen-Peters and the General Manager of Terra Kulture, Mr. Joseph Umoibom, are agreed a challenge has been thrown open to adventurous business people, who are welcome to make additions to the theatre space deficit to further boost the sector for the maximum benefits of practitioners.