…boosts Lagos theatre culture
With over 5,000 tickets sold for 10 shows in seven days at the same venue, The King Must Dance Naked really enthralled theatre lovers over the festive season.
From the relevant themes that touch on right leadership and preservation of cultural heritage amid comedy, superlative stage craft, interpretation and perfect delivery by vibrant and young cast members, to technical proficiency of the director, The King Must Dance Naked had so much going for it. The play, which was last staged in 2012, returned on stage after 11 years during the festive season to the thrill of the cheering audience at the Glover Memorial Hall, Lagos.
Of course, it got the audience cheering, some emotional, a few probing the gods and many excited at the creative ingenuity of the cast on stage and the director’s expertise.
An adaptation of Fred Agbeyegbe, a legendary playwright’s play, directed by Toritseju Ejoh and produced by Lufodo Productions in partnership with Sterling One Foundation, The King Must Dance Naked, is a grand production that delves into the rich history, culture, and traditions of the Ishekiri people. Amid comedy, it explores the intricate relationship between the gods and society, as well as the weight of leadership. After the coronation of Omajuwa as the King in Ogbodume, the land is plagued by famine and diseases. The root cause is believed to be the King’s inability to have an heir. However, the mystery unfolds when Mejebi appears.
From one scene to another, the play hooks the audience with suspense, comedy, emotions and others.
The ultimate question for many is, “Will the king dance naked”? The hope to witness the scene kept the audience at the Glover Memorial Hall, Lagos alive and hooked for all the days the play was staged at the historic venue.
Eventually, and at the height of the agitation by the people for the king to offer a solution to their problems, and in compliance with the directives of the gods, King Omajuwa truly danced naked.
That was the highlight for the high profile dignitaries at the closing show of the stage play on January 7, 2024 at the Glover Memorial Hall, Lagos.
The dignitaries, including Babatunde Raji Fashola, former governor of Lagos State and his wife, Abimbola; Kayode Fayemi, former governor of Ekiti State and his wife; Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos State, represented by Toke Benson-Awoyinka, Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Lagos State; Busola Tejumola, executive head, Content & West Africa Channels, MultiChoice Nigeria, among others were excited at the value for money play, while commending the cast, director and producers for the superlative stage show.
However, the play ended with the cutting of the 88th birthday cake of Pa Fred Agbeyegbe, the playwright, who was flanked by the dignitaries on stage.
As some theatre lovers observed, Ejoh, the director of that stage play, has grown in the business tremendously as he was part of the crew in 2012 and has become a director of the same play 11 years after.
Apart from honouring the playwright, Lufodo Productions, led by Joke Silva, has also done well in grooming younger generation theatre professionals as seen with Adesoji Jacobs, the producer and his excellent job.
“This is our show, The King Must Dance Naked, which had 10 shows. This is a show that has been done before. The executive producer was the lead character in 1993. And we took it to the Olympics in 2012. It is a very culturally rich piece. The King Must Dance Naked has a lot of political undertones to it. And we believe that it is a show that a lot of Nigerians, young and old, would appreciate and we are happy with the excellent turnout,” Jacobs said.
“We are doubling down on the importance of theater. We are showing people that theater is the cutting edge of entertainment and why people need to embrace theatre, the humanisation of society is necessary. And that is what theatre does for the Nigerian community. This is also as a way of providing an opportunity for them to be in the theatre space.”
On the relevance of the play in Nigeria today, Ejoh said, “In ritual cleansing of the society, we come into the world naked and we would live naked. Nakedness in this context is not seen in a derogatory form, but it’s seen in a plain and truthful form. Naked we came and naked we will go.
“As a king, you will not bathe yourself when you transition; some other people will bathe you. So what have you to hide? The play, therefore, is introspection into leadership, to the test on the quality of a leader if you are willing to be accountable. That is what the play is actually asking. Is leadership willing to be accountable?
“The king being the almighty, will he succumb to the directives of the ones that we do not see? Who is at play here? These are the questions that arise from the text The King Must Dance Naked, and its interpretation in movement, dance and music is what the audience here will see, when we open.”
On her part, Olapeju Ibekwe, CEO, Sterling One Foundation, noted that ‘The King Must Dance Naked’ is a timeless masterpiece, which is being revived by the dedicated efforts of the Lufodo Production team.
“Witnessing the revival of this iconic piece by the dedicated Lufodo team invokes a sense of nostalgia, promising a glimpse into the glorious past while embracing the innovative spirit of the present.
At Sterling One Foundation, we are dedicated to supporting this evolution through various initiatives.
Our commitment to the creative industry is exemplified through supporting and nurturing the Nigerian creative industry. Our initiatives, such as the recent panel session at the Africa Social Impact Summit, focused on reshaping the narrative of the creative economy,” she said.
Speaking on the play, Joke Silva, the executive producer, who previously played the lead role of Queen Odosun in the play in 1993, noted that Agbeyegbe has many remarkable plays, but The King Must Dance Naked was chosen for a special reason
“It is a play that looks at culture, tradition, leadership, and how all those things intersect. Where do they divide”? She said.
She also invites the public and theatre lovers to look forward to more enthralling productions from Lufodo as Adesoji, the producer, is eager to do more.