group of women, the only spoils of a devastating war, sit and mourn
for their dead and for their own shattered lives. The victors, detached
and arrogant, meet somewhere to decide the fate of those women.
is Euripides' The Trojan Women, seamlessly transferred to Yorubaland,
Nigeria, for The Women of Owu.
Femi Osofisan's hands, what might have been a simple transference
produces reverberations that power the play.
Troy? Kosovo? Yorubaland? In a controlled, powerful, convincing,
beautiful drama, Collective Artistes present us with the broken
mirror images of ancient, merely past, and contemporary history.
mating of Greek tragedy and African history is a masterstroke, and
the telling of the story in the hands of this cast is clear and
plot is very simple: the dispersal of the women to their conquerors,
to become servants, or concubines or slaves.
Chuck Mike and his choreographer have rehearsed the actors in the
rhythms and movements of Nigerian dance and song, and from somewhere
the actors have learned the difficult trick of maintaining dramatic
audience never escapes from the palms of their hands. The result
is a drama in which the ritualistic and the naturalistic work in
tandem to total effect.
gods rant and quarrel like market traders, the mortal women combine
in sinuous choral speaking accompanied by soft drums and rattles,
and the tragedy sings itself into one's head.
a cast that genuinely justifies the term ensemble, there are still
standouts. In the Hecuba part, Tosan Edremoda Ugbeye plays Erelu
with regal breadth. Restraining herself from seeking sympathy from
the audience, she acts with horror in her eyes, beyond any understanding
of what has happened.
faith in the gods is shattered forever. "We were always alone,
we just did not know," she says. Even her compassion is a victim
of the war, now that mourning will achieve nothing.
foil to her, Tunde Euba gives us Gesinde, the messenger of the conquerors
who is the perpetual foot soldier, carrying out his orders, preserving
his own life when death is a commonplace.
is amusing, getting genuine laughs, and chilling. He would be capable
of cracking a joke while turning on the gas taps at Auschwitz.
Adumaadan, the only Owu woman left with a living male child, Hazel
Holder moves the audience to and beyond tears. Her motherly sensitivity
still intact, she is crushed with the others into the wreckage of
Owu. The match between her acting and the writing produced true
brilliance, and her slow, heartbroken exit was itself heartbreaking.
are fine cameos from Rex Obano as the artist-turned conqueror, Okunade,
bestriding the stage like a colossus, and Louisa Eyo as the mother
goddess, Lawumi, fly-whisking morality away to give space for petulance.
than the original" would be a plug too far, but The Women of
Owu is a rare thing, a work of beauty, exciting and, oddly, original
beyond any expectations. The play and the production are, simply,