Park Theatre launches season of Wole Soyinka plays

Tessy Brown; Toyin Osinaike and Toritseju Ejoh at the reading rehearsals for King Baabu

July 13 is Prof. Wole Soyinka’s birthday. And to honour him, Park Theatre, the resident theatre platform for Freedom Park on Lagos Island, would perform three of his plays every weekend in July through August 27. King Baabu’s will have a command performance on July 26 at the same venue by Oxygen Koncepts. Other Soyinka’s plays scheduled for performance are Swamp Dwellers (by Crown Troupe of Africa) and Strong Breed (by Renegade Theatre).

Park Theatre is made up of One Six Productions (Toyin Osinaike), Oxygen Koncepts (Toritseju Ejoh and Zara Udofia-Ejoh), Crown Troupe of Africa (Segun Adefila) and Majmua Theatre (Abiodun Kassim).

While address the media by the duo of Toyin Osinaike and Toritseju Ejoh (Resident Operations Director), the organisers said, “Park Theatre is a resident platform established to offer and promote regular theatre culture within the serene atmosphere of Freedom Park, Lagos, which is in response to the urgent call for more community-based performance spaces that balance the delicate needs of the performers and the community they serve.”

Organisers further explained the objectives of the theatre platform to include offering Lagos community weekly performances at Freedom Park, promote, curate and manage programmes that will service the theatre needs of community, and to strengthen collaborations for existing and emerging producers for whom we endeavor to provide a parallel level of support. Others are to provide a welcoming and nurturing environment that is accessible to everyone within diverse communities and beyond and promote new works while celebrating and preserving Nigeria’s rich theatrical heritage.

Park Theatre, it was also gathered, started operations in February 2017 and has presented 47 plays so far. They are Morning Yet on Judgment Day and Wat’s Dis All About (by One Six Productions), Moremi (Crown Troupe of Africa), A Wake and Angst (by Majmua Theatre), Zango – The Journey – and Macham – A Deep Breath – (by Nogie-Ott Productions), The Audition (by B-Rated Productions) and Lipstick Fever (by Rat House Productions).

Resident Artistic Director of Park Theatre, Mr. Toyin Osinaike, noted that although the production company would be promoting regular theatre, it does mean it would be producing plays every day. He, however, expressed the commitment of the group to an enthusiastic promotion of all theatre-related activities within Freedom Park space. He enjoined everyone who visits Freedom Park to see the prime venue first as an artistic space and not just a beer parlour, and encouraged them to patronise the various artistic offerings while enjoying the serene ambience.

Osinaike also commended the management of the park for appreciating the needs of artists and offering the venue for free to promote theatre practice. According to him, “We stand at a place where the question arises, what is the place of theatre in this country as a social rescue platform? We count on the support of all to make this happen.”

On his part, Ejoh said the theatre group was on course to fulfill its mandate of showcasing theatre as regularly as possible, noting that it has attracted over 10,000 attendees since inception.

“Freedom Park is an outdoor place,” he said, “and we have on and off seasons. This is the off-season because of rain and so we will use unconventional, indoor space and sit in irregular manner. Park Theatre is site-specific theatre platform and we believe in Theatre Without Borders.”

Osinaike and Ejoh also noted that the three plays chosen for the Soyinka season, though old, are compelling and have relevance for the socio-political climate that now pervades Nigeria. King Baabu, for instance, is a throwback to the harrowing military days and its repercussions that still haunt the country. They lamented the absence of new playwrights coming on scene and promised to use Park Theatre platform to intervene ways possible to raise a new crop of playwrights worth their salt.

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Park TheatreWole Soyinka
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