04 July 2005

Thanks to Rebecca's diligence in getting the tickets, I was privileged to see one of Africa's modern masterpieces on Saturday night, Ola Rotimi's adaptation of Oedipus the King. The play is relocated to 15th century Nigeria, but Rotimi was writing in 1968 to highlight the madnesses of internecine conflict erupting in his country at that time. The Gods Are Not To Blame is a stunning adaptation, closer to a play like Hamlet in its use of broad comedy to create lightning changes of mood, allowing the tragic heart of the drama to reveal itself as even more blighted and cursed. The Sophoclean model is very present though, its immense power as a parable of hubris brought low is thrumming in the background all the while, as if there were a sphinx in the corner of the room. Well, I say corner, but the play was in the round, using the main space at the Arcola to the full.

In the interval R and I were blabbing away about how great it was, play and production, and where could we get hold of the text? Then it dawned that the director was sitting at our table, talking to pals. His name is Femi Elufowoju jr, and his company are Tiata Fahodzi. So we asked Femi, and he said it's not published here, despite being a classic over there. He offered to email us the text, we gave him our addresses, but it was the last night, he had a lot on his mind, and we'll forgive him if he forgets. He took a richly deserved bow at the end of the show.

It only struck me later, catching up with Live8 on the news, how appropriate a day it was to be watching a gem of modern African arts.
Was very moved watching Pink Floyd - B taped it for me.

The dinner I gave for the rejection went very well. Samantha, Rachael, Glyn, Bettina and Beverly were full of ideas for the short play evenings I'm proposing. It's a little perverse of me to be thinking about 15 minute theatre when the play I'm writing is as big as a bastard. And I can hardly be taken seriously as a follower of the Monsterists if I carry on like this. But there we are. I'm determined to get something on stage this year! Even at the cost of accidentally founding the Miniaturists.

The Canterbury Tales wends its merry way. Nattering in the courtyard of The George with Juliet. Rolling a wooden beer barrel across cobblestones. Watching the skies. Spying the locals, spying us from high-rises, penthouses. Fielding questions: What's this then. What's the Canterbury Tales then. What're you doing. And from audience members: Where can I go to the loo. Where's the next play. What happens now.
The Wife of Bath's Tale is at the end of the evening, when limbs and brains are weariest. But it's the best of the playlets - sharp, humane, funny. And clear as a bell in the majestic setting, under the eaves of Southwark Cathedral, in its Millennium Courtyard. The production as a whole is a miracle of organisation. The technical crew, stewards and security, added to the seven principal actors, added to the twenty supporting cast, added to the 150 audience people, all go a-wandering through a very busy part of Central London. Hats off to Gareth Machin, who adapted the Tales with Ian Hastings, and also directs. And well done to Tom and Juliet for backing him all the way.


Anonymous said...

can i write a short play for you?

(an equally frustrated non-miniaturist - )

Ova Girl said...

Gee your life is sounding good sbs. Art, work, family all coming together. And I love The Miniaturists.

sbs said...

thanks o.g. - Life *is* sweet at the moment but of course hubris is the enemy so let's all just keep ploughing on and hope to avoid the attentions of NEMESIS...

anon - drop me a line: steshark@graffiti.net

Anonymous said...

Err, I'm intrigued by your nod to Live8 (for the record, I call it Apart8). Do you mean, it was really good to have seen a brilliant display of modern African arts when Geldof was churning out such all-white shit? Or do you mean, the gem of Live 8 was matched by the gem of the play?
As for Pink Floyd, I, too, am a fan. But I'd love to know what they did with the 1000% rise in sales the day after Live 8. And what the hell did they think they were doing appearing on such a low quality, patronising show of white superiority complex at its finest.

sbs said...

absolutely take those points, anon. the white-ness of the concerts was indicative to me of the paradoxically parochial nature of the effort. but the appeal was being made to white guys at Gleneagles - it was the governed shouting out to the governors.
i read that Dave Gilmour of the Floyd responded quickly to the news of the avalanche of sales by handing over the profits straightway, and strongly cajoling the others to do the same. i'll go look for a link.

here it is,

sbs said...

further, i should clarify, i meant that the play and the culture reflected there were unimpeachably high art, and it was appropriate to see the work that day since it served as a contrast to the Live8 stress on famine and injustice, and a reminder of the complexity of the continent, and the depth of its history. also as it was a Nigerian take on a Greek, it was a strong blend, and a startling example example of cross-fertilisation between continents.
and i'll add, so many of the thousands of attendees at Hyde Park will remain sadly ignorant of the heights of African culture without the efforts of Tiata Fahodzi and their like.

Anonymous said...