Mining dangers of absentee parents in ‘The Walking Stick’
Knowing the negative effects lack of good parenting could have on young ones and the society informed the American author, Barbara Johnson, in one of her inspirational works on parenting to say: ‘To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today.’
This precept was recently enacted in a stage play, The Walking Stick, presented by Riveting Playhouse at Terra Kulure, Lagos.
The play tells how Prof. N.T. Ciroma (Ayo Lijadu) abandons his young family in Lagos in pursuit of his teaching career in tertiary institutions in the northern part of the country.
Unable to cope with the harsh economy without him, his wife, Fatimo (Tina Mba) sends their twin children, Latif (Tunji Sotimirin) and Titi (Caroline Nzelu) to live separately with their maternal and paternal grandmothers, while she ekes out a living alone.
Fatimoh soon begins to engage in the less desirable pastime of Lagos life and in no time she succumbs to a sluttish lifestyle.
With the passage of time, the children, now adults, appear to have fared slightly better, with Titi becoming a pharmacist cum street hustler, while Latif becomes a local government executive cum thug.
In a twist of event, the family members – father, mother and children — meet under the most unfavourable circumstances to reveal the most dastardly consequences of a society torn apart by illicit drugs, abuses and addiction.
Written and directed by Felix Okolo, the play showcased an array of stars that know their onions in acting. Starting from Mba, whose delivery was flawless to Sotimirin and Lijadu, whose body language, gestures and deliveries were in harmony with the roles they interpreted, the director showed expertise at selecting the cast.
The lightning was apt, as it illuminated the periods and the dark corners of the streets without making the play lose meaning or form. The music, lacking in amoral expressions, was also befitting and relevant, and helped to amplify the storyline.
This makes the play appropriate for children; it could be presented anywhere. The costumes were to the point, depicting the trade each cast interpreted as well as projecting the segment of the society.
This could be seen with Latif selling drugs to the locals, Fatimo doing menial jobs on the streets, and Prof Ciroma eloquently giving a speech, with Titi spotting just her nightie.
With themes including parents abdicating their roles to prostitution, sales of illicit and fake drugs and others, The Walking Stick deploys doses of musical performances to fill scene changes. This contributed to extending the play to over one hour thirty minutes.
It must be pointed out though that some of the dances or choreographed scenes were irrelevant to the play and as such were not necessary. Removing such redundant scenes would make the storyline tight and save cost as well as make the play shorter and the message punchy.
It would also please the playwright to revisit the storyline with the aim of tightening loose ends like Titi sleeping with the father, the point at which the twins went perverse and others. To say the least, it will as well be proper to work on a few themes to make the play compelling.
Aside this, the director did a good job in his multiple use of casts in role interpretation. Though the playwright has the license to tell his/her story the way he/she sees fit, it must be noted that it is not all children that are brought up by their grandparents that end up turning out bad.
Here, the environment the children are brought up and the training given them that resulted to the maladjusted behaviours of the twins should have been acted out or expressed in some of the narrations of Ciroma and Fatimo. In fact, Fatimo’s monologue would have been best to address this.
Produced by Leke Akinrowo, the play uses Prof Ciroma as a stock character for husbands that abandon their wives and children to seek greener pastures abroad without recourse to their welfare and upkeep.
It calls for family unity in child training and lays emphasis on the need for the man and wife to create time for their children and not neglect their duties.
While not totally condemning Prof Ciroma and Fatimo for not being able to bring up their two children as expected, there is need to take a good look at society, the polity, policymakers and leaders for creating inclement conditions that make young couples unable to take care of their families.
Also showcased are the import and hazards of peddling hard and fake drugs and other atrocities and what they portend for society.
These ills could be infectious and inhibit otherwise well-meaning young Nigerians from attaining their best, as they get messed up before they reach their prime.
Laden with didactic lessons, the play serves as a clarion call for parents for reality check on their activities, either at home to their children or in providing for their homes. They need to find out if they are not playing the role of Prof Ciroma one way or the other.
Ultimately, the good they do to their children today will help reorder society for a better tomorrow. That way they leave lasting legacies for society.
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