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At 7th creative station, children, teens wow audience

The grand finale of the 2016 Children and Teens Creative Station of the National Troupe of Nigeria left the audience impressed.

NUMEROLOGISTS say seven means perfection and though what transpired on Sunday, September 4 at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos was not perfect, it was very close to perfection.That balmy Sunday afternoon was the day the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN) chose to showcase the young talents it had groomed for the seventh edition of its Children and TeensCreative Station in a well packaged grand finale.

With the trainingin acting, improvisation, miming, dancing, writing, voice training and singinghaving commenced on July 25 and the children, many of whom had forgone summer schools and trips abroad for the intensive but fun-filled six weeks workshophaving been putthrough their paces, parents and guests were curious to see what they would serve up.

Fittingly, an excellent offering was what they presented inside the filled-to- capacity Banquet Hall of the National Theatre. Starting with the ‘ShakitiBobos’, a group of toddlers the main anchor, ShaibuHusseini, called ‘Mogbomoya’ (uninvited toddlers who followed their older siblings to the training out), to the presentation of ‘The Dented Anthill’, a play created by the participants of the creative workshop and directed by foremost choreographer, Peter Badejo (OBE), there was no dull moment. The presentations and arrangements were tighter this year while there was marked improvement with the sound. Everybody in the audience could hear the presenters clearly while the drama, despite the very large cast, was not rambling.

Expectedly, children would always be children. With a number of them not familiar with being under the spotlight, some of the ‘ShakitiBobos’ brought onstage to dance to Korede Bello’s ‘God Win’ were easily distracted. Some found the lights and shiny backdrop more interesting and so focused on them. But the audience took no offence. They enjoyed the refreshing innocence of the young ones; some of whom having satisfied their curiosity with the lights and backdrops, eventually went through the motions of dancing before the music was stopped.

The choral performance which came next was captivating. The more than 120uniformly attiredchildrenwere not unlike the popular Drakensberg Boys Choirthough they had girls in their ranks.  They did a quartet of songs including the late Christy Essien-Igbokwe’s ‘S’ohunrere’ and ‘You raise me up’ in tinkling, loud and clear voices.

They upped the tempo  when they presented modern dances Kaffy and P-Square amongst others would have applauded and it was the same with the traditional dances including Asama from the north, Orukoro, a dance of fertility from the south-south and Obitun from the south west. The beauty of the performances was further enhanced by the beautiful costumes from each region and accompanying props deployed in the presentations.

Their drama presentation, ‘The Dented Hill’, reiterated the importance of cooperation and unity to the Nigerian nation. The play opened with a scene showing the children, imitating ants building an anthill, a common residence for protection against the elements and predators. In well-choreographed movements, the children-ants set about their task while a video in the background showed real ants also building their own anthill.  Inscribed on the anthill with cardboard when the task was accomplished were words like peace, justice, progress, accountability and love, all very key in the successful completion of the task.

Sadly, the ants were not to enjoy the luxury of their home for long as a dent appears and the structure is demolished, despite the best attempts of a group of ants to prevent this. Like the ants, unity was what was envisaged for the Nigerian federation at independence only for ethnicity, nepotism, religious crisis and corruption amongst others to throw a spanner into the plan. The earlier unity and cooperation went missing and Nigeria found herself in a mess with other socio-political issues surfacing. All of these, of course, continue to threaten the existence of the country, with the centre no longer able to hold.  There have since then been various attempts to patch the wobbling structure from the top but like the ants’ efforts, it has come to nothing.

Impressed by what they saw, the audience gave the actors and the director a standing ovation but Badejo refused to take all the glory for the excellent presentation.  He said: “I am grateful to the management of the National Troupe for allowing the voices of children to be heard. We should all be proud of these children; credit to them. Each time I work with children, I have enough to learn. There’s a crisis of lying in Nigeria, all the profound statements you heard in the play came from the children. Let’s start listening to the children, maybe we will learn because big problems starts from small lies.”

Interestingly, the outing and the indeed the whole project wouldn’t have happened but for the grit of the workshop coordinator,Ms Josephine Igberease,who is also Head of Drama Department at the NTN.

“This gathering was made possible by the grace of God and the dogmatic follow-up of MsIgberease,” began the Artistic Director of the National Troupe, Akin Adejuwon, in his welcome speech. “I had thought this year’s edition of the workshop wasn’t going to happen because there was no money. At a point, Ms.Igberease said she was going to bring in her own money; she even offered to buy a generator because light was cut off at the theatre for about eight weeks. The National Troupe, amongst other functions is charged with encouraging children’s theatre but poor finance almost put paid to this objective. This is our seventh year and it has been our year of renewal in spite of donor fatigue that has worn out sponsorship. In fact, it has turned out to be our best year so far. I dedicate this presentation to Jospehine,” Adejuwon concluded while thanking partners and sponsors including the management of the National Theatre,Access Bank, Wapic Insurance, MTN, Chevron, Mimee andZmirage.

Also speaking, an official of Wapic Insurance, RantimiOgunleye told parents that the present circumstances notwithstanding, the future of the children is very bright. He urged parents to ensure they invest systematically in their children by securing their education.

Chairman of Access Bank, Mrs. Mosun Bello-Olusoga, spoke in the same vein. She said with what she saw, Nigeria has a great future. “I believe in bringing up very culturally aware children, especially in an era when we are losing our culture. Though western education is a given, I fear losing our culture. This show is worthy of a Broadway show. It was incredible, the energy, the acrobats, the dancing, everybody was on point,” Bello-Olusoga added.