Girl child challenges as regressive cultural practice in ‘Beyond The Sunset’
Modern science has proven beyond doubt that a child’s sex (male or female) is determined by the Y-chromosomes the male partner, at the time of copulation, donates to the woman. But this scientific fact, which is yet sink into the consciousness of most African males and their die-hard traditional beliefs, that attributes the sex of the unborn child to a particular god or goddess or blamed on a woman’s ill-fate or inability to have a male, surfaced as part of the sub-theme of the play, Beyond The Sunset. It was performed recently by G2 Coy to celebrate World Theatre Day.
Written by Lekan Balogun, the play, which is based on the culture of the Igbo, has Olisa Emeka (Godwin Ikeduru) maltreating his wife, Titi (Dupe Thomas), and his two daughters because his only son, Chidi (Segun Dada), who is to inherit his wealth, turns out a moron and is physically challenged.
Saddened that he has an imbecile for a heir, Emeka becomes a terror to his family. He beats up his wife and daughters at the slightest provocation. The matter becomes worse, when the wife, on health grounds, could not give birth to another child after Chidi.
But as Emeka begins to prosper in business and gains prominence in society, his wife’s inability to have another child starts to haunt him; he is desperate for an able-bodied male child to inherit his wealth and continue his lineage. Not bothered about what anyone, including Father Lucas, his parish priest, and his friend, Rowland, would say about his desire, Emeka plans with his sister, Mama Icodi (Adeyemisi Adekunle), to secretly marry Doris (Grace Daladi) — an arrangement that turns Titi’s children against their aunt.
On arriving her new home, Doris, instead of being a unifying force, escalates tension in the home. In order to pacify Doris, Emeka sends off his first daughter, a promising student, out into the streets, but thanks to Father Lucas, who provides her a place from where she is able to finish her secondary education and later secure a scholarship to study in the U.S.
But this does not move Emeka to change his mind and accept his daughter. Instead, he hardens his heart and treats their mother like a maid in her matrimonial home.
However, the sweet romance between Emeka and Doris soon turns bitter, when he realises that the baby boy Doris claims to have for him actually belongs to another man, Benji (Samson Akindele), Doris’ former boyfriend. More shocking is the fact that the revelation comes on the day the child is to be christened. Benji does not only show up at the event to take his son, he has Emeka and Doris arrested.
Emeka is forced to realise his prodigality as the result of his craze for an able-bodied male child. Emeka learns the bitter lesson that beyond the sunset and his cravings, as dictated by his tradition-rooted and outdated society and culture, lays the truth that he has to accept his family members the way they are. Humiliated, he is forced to look inward; he apologises to his wife and children for his shameful behaviour, and thereafter leads a happy life.
Directed by Seyi Faleti, the emotion-laden play, in laying bare the patrilineal nature of most African communities, reveals how the girl-child, despite her many endowments and modernity and exposure, still suffers second class status in most homes. She is given little or no encouragement to attain her maximum potentials in society. It also highlights the various disgusting challenges mothers go through in some cultures for not having male children to take over from their husbands and carry on the family name.
The play also plays up the issue of living with mentally defective children. Beyond The Sunset exposes how families with such children, instead of showing love and care, hide them from friends, sometimes denying them normal lives.
While using the stage to entertain and educate, the play calls on the custodians of culture to take a second look at some of its cultural practices with a view to amending them to reflect prevailing changes brought by modernity. It also calls for a liberal and egalitarian society, where gender is not the determining factor to attaining full potentials or privileges. Beyond The Sunset also enjoins society to take care of its weak or mentally challenged and treat them with respect.
Although the stage was small with only one entrance and exit, Faleti creatively managed it, and used lighting to hype some of the scenes, while the cast interpreted the story naturally, and brought out the messages with precise performance ingenuity.