With Isale Eko, Benson retells Lagos chieftaincy story

A scene from the play

Long before the coming of colonial masters, the various kingdoms in the country had their leadership structure. They equally had ways by which new kings emerged.In Isale Eko, a play staged to celebrate the 55th anniversary of one of Nigeria’s foremost insurance company, AIICO Insurance Plc., there is an attempt to retell the history of Lagos.

Written by William Benson and directed by Joseph Edgar, the play deploys theatre idioms as songs, light, characterisation and costumes to tell a familiar, but germane story about the Lagos story.

In the piece, the playwright weaves the story of love and intrigue into the enthronement of a new king.Using suspense and evocative language, the play goes on to reveal how the Lagos kingdom is thrown into chaos, because of love struggle between the crowned Prince Kosoko and the kingmaker, Eletu Odibo. Both men engage each other in a game of wit and subterranean subterfuge over who should marry a beautiful slave.

Eventually, the fight results in Kosoko being denied the throne when his elder brother passed away. Idowu Ojulari crowns Kosoko’s uncle Akintoye who does not believe in some of the tradition of the town. With a 78-man cast, Isale Eko addresses ills in the society, especially anarchy, hatred, abuse of people and power.

There is a perfect blend of light, colours and humour in a story that dwells on love, envy, jealousy and hatred in every day event. The intrigues of politics in installing a king become the leitmotif for a new vision of the country. This, perhaps, is one of the outstanding features of Isale Eko, an adjective that figuratively depict the power of traditional Lagos.

According to the director, government must be returned to the owners, that’s, the people. The play addresses job creation, so, “if the government knows that it is serious about job creation, art should be one of major areas to invest in.”He continues, “with Isale Eko, we are challenging the absent mindedness of this present generation with regard to going back to their history.”

The Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer, AIICO Insurance, Edwin Igbiti said, “we decided to adopt Isale Eko, to use entertainment as a vehicle to reach out to the youth and carry them.  We see entertainment as one important means to connect, and therefore, the untold story of Isale Eko give us that opportunity to enable the youth to understand the history of Lagos and all the intrigues.”

On planning for the future, he said “this is a company of 55 years old that has untold stories, we have a dream and we also want to inform the public that the average age in AIICO insurance at the moment is 27 which will tell you that it’s a firm for the future. In another one hundred year, we will still be around, because what we depend on is stability, which is assured.

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