Crown Troupe of Africa’s rendition of the famous Yoruba myth of Moremi, the lady who saved the people of Ife from the Igbo people (not to be confused with the Igbo people of South-East Nigeria) – is youthful, exuberant and effectively crowd-pleasing. The story, relocated to an Ife that serves as metaphor for the wider Nigerian polity, is laced with clever contemporary references that keep the dram from being overly worthy. The conceit works well, in most respects, and provides the most gratifying elements of entertainment in the play. As a social critique of contemporary Nigeria, the narrative is a little confused – but it does pointedly and with humour highlight the degree to which youth are sacrificed to maintain the social order, without following through with the implications of this critique. More delightfully, the production makes good use of a minimal set, and inventive transitions with music to gives us a sense of the mise en scene and symbolic life of the Ife Kingdom – most elegantly in a brief musical number for one of the river deities.
Though it remains true to the myth, the tragic element of the Moremi story is under-utilised – the salient fact of a mother giving her only son is rather haphazardly worked into the story, and we have very little time to reflect on it in the course of the play; what does sparkle are the actors, and the musical numbers, bar a few bum notes. Providing lots of comic relief is the love sub-plot between Moremi’s son, Oluorogbo, sometimes to the detriment of the play – and the hapless emissaries to the Oba, and their unfortunate encounter with Ife’s market women.
In general, the pacing of the production is sure footed – and it is only at the end when we are given a very bizarre concluding hip-hop number that the youthful exuberance starts to chafe. Nevertheless, this is slick and entertaining fare, which one hopes will find a home to play again.
Moremi played on the 25th – 27th March, as part of Park Theatre at Freedom Park
Picture courtesy of Segun Adefila | Source: Telegraph Newspapers