Kakadu recreates Lagos life on Muson stage
Award-winning hit musical Kakadu was on stage at the Agip Recital Hall, Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos from December 29 to last Sunday. The musical is a narrative of love and friendship that characterised Lagos life of the 60s, Assistant Editor (Arts) OZOLUA UHAKHEME reports.
Unlike the trendy way of starting most musical and theatrical performances, an art exhibition was held in place of a red carpet to herald Kakadu The Musical.
Mounted on an unusual stand made from raw wood at the lobby of the Agip Hall, Muson Centre, Lagos, the exhibition featured 14 paintings and sketches by Polly Alakija, which are the artist’s visual way of getting ‘into character’ and learning the visual language of any subject.
The paintings include These politicians are at it again, Rehearsal and We don’t know where we are going. Like an appetiser, the paintings refresh the audience’s memories with many images of rehearsal sessions and discussions between the cast and the director of the musical, Uche Nwokedi.
The opening stanza of the musical, which is a blend of music, drama and dance, leads the audience into the Lagos life of the 60s and 70s, using a popular night club, Kakadu, as backdrop for the era. Within the first few minutes, every slice of Lagos life is being captured on stage. They range from traffic jam to vendors of newspapers and food hawking their wares on the streets, mobile tailors (Obioma tailors) sanitary inspectors (Wolewole) and the regular hangout on Saturday night at Kakadu Night Club. On the band stand is the Fabulous Flamingo Dance Band presenting the old school songs for the popular Twist dance steps.
“Kakadu is Lagos life. And Lagos means love all girls on Saturday. In Kakadu, you don’t rush alcohol or women,” warned the band leader.
“Forget Nigeria and the outside, this is Kakadu in Lagos, he added. All these were pointers to the fact that irrespective of one’s place of birth, Lagos provides the leveler for all visitors. Issues of ethnicity and tribal differences found no place then.
Produced by the Playhouse Initiative, Kakadu The Musical, which made its return by courtesy of MTN Foundation, Access Bank Plc and Casers Group is the journey of four friends through a time of infinite possibilities. “It is a story of peace and war, of friendships and broken promises, and of innocence. It is a powerful plot and a captivating storyline that sees and looks at the 1960s Lagos as a nation celebrates the end of colonialism and the birth of a new nation.”
No doubt, Kakadu The Musical is being described as arguably Nigeria’s first contemporary stage musical and is a real tribute to the period and infinite possibilities of Nigeria in the 60s and early 70s. Apart from offering a complete theatre that educates and enlightens while entertaining, it also recalls the strong bonds and values that kept Nigeria together as a nation before the unfortunate civil war that was preceded by military coups.
Set in the 60s and 70s, the musical concert did not fail to re-enact the significant role Highlife music played as the soul of Nigerian music industry at that time. Classical works from the rich repertoire of Nigerian musicians such as the late Bobby Benson, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Celestine Ukwu, Christian Igbokwe, Onyeka Onwenu, Victor Olaiya, Sir Victor Uwaifo were rendered all through the two hour performance. It was a refreshing night for the ‘old school’ with the presentation of songs such as Bobby Benson’s Taxi Driver, Victor Olaiya’s Sisi Mailo, Sir Victor Uwaifo’s Guitar Boy and Onyeka Onwenu’s Dancing in the sun among others.
In the spirit of the independence celebration, Kakadu lighten up the hall with the post-independence party held at the club though was truncated by the announcement of a military coup. Suddenly, the hitherto friendly Lagos life turned unbearable for many. “And we must close Kakadu. Everything is changing. People are leaving Lagos in fear of a looming war.”
Complementing these old tunes were dress codes that take people back to the 70s when Afro wig hair style was the vogue.Also part of the customs is the shuku (elongated) hair style common among women of that age. “Tonight we will celebrate Africa. From Congo to Ghana, Port Harcourt to Lagos,” the band leader reassured the audience who danced to the evergreen Olaiya’s Sisi Mailo and Benson’s Taxi Driver songs.
Even when the war was declared closed, the people of Lagos still did not find it easy to accept one another because of perceptions and misconceptions. War is ugly, and even at the close of it, it still raises some national questions of tolerance, unity and understanding among the various ethnic nationalities. Little wonder Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers to Cross was aptly presented to prick the audience conscience.
But why are we here? Several governments and laws have been in made but how do we build a nation? These were some of the posers for the audience as the curtain was drawn two hours after.
Instructively, the performance is returning on stage when similar drumbeat of war is sounding again across the country, especially the on-going agitations by Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for the creation of Biafra nation led by Nnamdi Kanu.
According to its Executive Producer Nwokedi, ‘’The Kakadu storyline catches the watershed years in Nigeria’s history.’’ He described theatre as amazing and that through this process ‘’we get to see the truth in what we do as human beings, and learn what we should about lives we live. The Kakadu family continues to grow and we are encouraged by the support of many to reprise the production. With this run of Kakadu, we will donate some of the proceeds from the show to the Pacelli School for the Blind and Partially sighted, our chosen charity for 2015/2016’’.
To one of the lead actors, who acted Lugard Omo Eko da Rocha, Lagos city is life at a furious pace and it is theatre at its best. “It is the celebration of the infinite possibilities in life. Lagos is a musical called Kakadu, rich and enthralling, an amazing combination of brilliant dance routines, a roller coaster of emotions and a powerful narrative of love and friendship. It is a way to re-connect and recreate on several levels, where stage mirrors life in Lagos,” he said. Interestingly, Kakadu was performed simultaneously at the same centre same days and yet, tickets were always sold out on each day.