Shattered… the cry of a loner
MINEKO Iwasaki, the author of Geisha of Gion, having analysed the activities of men, said cryptically, “stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime”. This euphemism was borne out at Terra Kulture, Lagos, when the Kenneth Uphopho-led Paw Studios thrilled theatre lovers and also created awareness about the evils of rape and sexual molestation of the girl-child.
The play, Shattered, tells the story of Loveth (Goodness Emmanuel), who loses her father in an unspeakable circumstance. Knowing the importance of education, Uncle Dafe (Martins Iwuagu), the father’s friend, offers to fund Loveth’s education. Things go well at first between Loveth’s family and Dafe’s until Dafe begins to torment the poor girl; he wants to sleep with her before he pays her school fees. Loveth refuses and he becomes hostile. As her final year exams approaches with her school and exam fees yet to be settled, she begins to exhibit maladjusted behaviour at home; her mother, Kemi (Bola Hasstrup) is too blind to see the torment she is going through. She assumes that Uncle Dafe means well for her only daughter.
Worried that her daughter is behaving abnormally, Kemi calls Pastor (Patrick Diabuah) to pray and cast out the demon in her daughter. The pastor prophesies that Loveth’s trouble can be traced to her late father’s family members, who do not want her to amount to anything good in life. This goes with the general belief that madness runs in Loveth’s father’s family and that Loveth is exhibiting the trait. The pastor agrees to hold a prayer session in their house to cast out the evil spirit. The session holds, but nothing positive happens. In fact, Loveth accuses the pastor for being as blind as her mother and others around her.
Things, however, turn around when Loveth reveals to her closet friend that Dafe has had his way with her. The incident happens on the first anniversary of her father’s death; she is shattered, having promised her father to be of good behaviour which includes leading a life of chastity until she is married. She fears that telling her mother the truth would ruins the relationship between the two families.
Written by the 2011 BBC award winner, Bode Asiyanbi, the play reveals that girl-child sexual molestation is mostly perpetuated by those who are close to young girls. It draws attention to the fact that parents should distance themselves from their children, as it makes them to depend on outsiders for help. The paly also highlights the attention given to religion, as every unusual behaviour is attributed to evil spirits. As a result, issues that need to be investigated are approached on a wrong premise.
Despite the captivating performance and the issues dealt with, certain shortcomings were observable. Loveth displays a white-cloth to show she has been deflowered; it would have been believable if it had some bloodstains in it. It relies on mere dialogue, whereas live theatre is a pragmatic platform, where issues of importance are shown in action. So, to a non-initiate of the West African culture, where a white cloth stands for purity would not be intelligible.
Also, the examination fee, which Uncle Dafe later brings, is left on the couch in more than two scenes, where the pastor drops it. Dafe’s wife, Nneka, (Ijeoma Aniebo) stylishly later removes. Why allow it to remain there for so long? The money draws undue attention because it is believed to have other roles to play, but this isn’t so, as it turns out.
However, the set design was cleverly done, with the small space being partitioned into two – the outer and inner rooms – to highlight the multiple exists and entrances’ defects. The simple message the play portrays is that society should help people in Loveth’s situation to fight sexual abuse perpetuated against young girls and women.