Otunba Tunji Sotimirin at the Cinema Hall 1, National Theatre, Lagos, before a large audience who also came for the launch of his two books,
Sai Marie Johnson, the American poet and author, must have observed the madness and troubles engulfed in nation-building, including the informal business entrepesses, when she said: “I’m a beautiful mess of contradiction; a chaotic display of imperfection.” This chaotic display of imperfection, even in our beauty came to the fore in a solo play titled, Molue.
Performed by the ace solo dramatist and scholar, Otunba Tunji Sotimirin at the Cinema Hall 1, National Theatre, Lagos, before a large audience who also came for the launch of his two books, the play showcases the series of comic spectacles that take place in the rickety commercial bus (Molue) that ply Lagos roads.
With themes that include indiscipline in public places, abuse of drugs and alcohol to illegal sales of drug, impersonation among others, the play showcases how Lagos city bus conductors and drivers coerce passengers to do their biddings and also reasons some passengers throw caution to the winds to get their rights.
Using the ramshackle commercial buses and its passengers as an allegory of Nigeria, the play depicts the highhandedness of our leaders and also a gully between leadership and the followers.
It paints a picture, where the leaders speak from both sides of their mouths and also a situation where our leaders say one thing and do the opposite.
Here, the bus conductor ushering passengers into the bus, most times, compels them to do what he wants could be likened to politicians and those campaigning for them to get into elective officers.
In our ‘beautiful mess of contradiction’ once these politicians are elected to power, they jettison the electorates that voted for them. They even go to the extent of using the state agencies against them.
Just like the bus conductor in Molue is interested in his money and wants every passenger to come in with the right fare, the politicians go into office for their selfish interests rather than the general good of the people.
The driver, though calm even amid troubles, stands for docile leaders that would not make any notable pronouncement on sensitive national issues, only to be obstinate and self-willed.
To drive home the lessons, the play written by Otunba Tunji Sotimirin relies on realistic staging: it uses a rack to hang the difference costumes for the diverse and varied characters. This on its own depicts the various garages where drivers and conductor alter their clothes – here one could find different items on display, even the woman that sells alcoholic concoction to them.
However, buba and sokoto (Yoruba traditional outfits) for the driver and bus conductor are out of place, a pair of jeans trouser and a tee shirt would have been most appropriate because modern ‘Molue’ conductors and drivers are not only yuppies, but need strong work cloths that would enable them do all the gymnasiums they need. Aside this other costumes are just appropriate for the characters portrayed.
The language use is simple and easy to relate with, especially as it is in Pidgin spiced in Yoruba for the driver and his conductor, while the evangelist and the American wannabe speak good English.
Switching over to a medicine man that uses a strong Igbo accent shows how far the soloist went with his research to showcase the best in him. Aside the simplicity of language, he systematically avoided vogue street jargon.
The music was rapt, the in thing and relevant to the storyline. In fact, he used the short musical performance to introduce some of his other stories. While this is good, it however, added to the prolongation of the play.
Also, sound effects such as the revving of bus’ engine, the blaring of motor horns and others were done with his voice, this made the audience to have a feel of the story, as it added flavour, but like the musical performance, it also added to the elongation of the play, perhaps a situation where such sound tracks come from the background would have been ideal.
In the interpretation of his roles Sotimirin uses body and voice as responsive instruments. His body language and tonal expressions took the role of each character projection.
Apart from creating different sounds with his voice, he also created an illusion of a bus, steered the wheel, sat on the conductor’s seat and hung at the entrance.
His gesticulations one must note rhythms with his calls for passengers into the bus, his swing and other nuances of the character on display.
The play is a beautiful showcase of our chaos, imperfections and loosing values as a nation and people.