Playwright and director, Ben Tomoloju, is directing the 2016 MUSON Festival play, ‘The Wives Revolt’ written by Professor JP Clark. He speaks about the play and his preparations ahead of its staging later this month. Excerpts:
TELL us a bit about the play you are directing for the 2016 MUSON Festival?
It is JP Clark’s ‘The Wives Revolt’. It was written in the early 1980s. It is reputed to be the emeritus professor’s first comedy. It is a classic by all descriptions.I am comfortable directing the play for so many reasons; one is that it is a master’s work. We have an opportunity once again to show the public the high skill, the genius of a master in person of John Pepper Clark. It is also something that the younger generation can learn from in terms of literary craftsmanship, in terms of dramaturgy and play making and directing. It offers an opportunity for actors and actresses to try something different from just the normal music, dance and all that stuff; and still get good entertainment- sound wonderful entertainment, out of literature in drama.
What kind of actors were you looking for during the audition?
As the producer and director, I did the casting. I looked for experience, proficiency, versatility, and virtuosity of the actors. I tried to bridge the gap between the generations in this production;whereas we have someone who has 22 years’ experience in acting with someone who has been in the business for 10 years or thereabout. Each showing what they have to offer. Phase by phase new talents should be introduced to the public. And we shouldn’t just get stuck to older talents. As the director, for instance, I enjoy watching the works of younger directors. I want new actors to be acknowledged and seen by the public.
How did you arrive at the choice of the play?
The choice is strictly by MUSON. If I don’t like the play, I will not touch it. I feel challenged to pick on a JP Clark.
While you were talking about the actors,Ina Erezia,Uzor Thaddeusand Prince Oyakhilome, I noticed your voice peaked with excitement. I have a feeling they are really making you feel excited about the rehearsal.
They are challenging me, really. But I have always appreciated them that way. I am not the one who will give them a pass mark; it is the audience that will give them a pass mark. But I would have prepared them to have that ace. But they are very interesting to work with. They are like lamps we cannot hide under the table. They should come on top of the table and their talents should illuminate the environment of performance. So that was the reason behind the excitement.
Are you bringing any new twist to The Wives Revolt?
You confirm the year of premiere; I think it is 1984 or something. I was there to see the play as performed by Toun Oni, (Mama T) and others about 20 something years ago. I like to be modest, I don’t know if I am going to bring in any twist to the play that is so special but I know that I am going to be myself. I like to be different. I had the temptation of going to say Baba we are performing your play, we will like to take photographs with you, tell us this and that. I should face the play from the point of view of my own interpretation but with full feat to the creativity and genius of the playwright. I don’t just tamper with plays. I first of all, try to respect the genius of the playwright and then my own interpretation comes in without tampering with the message. Work with the literary skill without tampering with the plot and diction but trying to weave something that can be very exciting to the spirit, intellect.
MUSON is interested in doing something with younger directors, could this be a platform for doing more for young talents?
Young directors have been making their impacts. Some of them are heads of departments and are still in the same age group with those who are directing outside, they have been making their impacts. One of the most highly respected is Tunde Awosanmi, Head,Theatre Arts Department, University of Ibadan. That is one and at the same time you talk of Segun Adefila. These are difficult questions because the policy of MUSON is not really within my care. It is only MUSON who can say what they want to do with their facilities. In terms of my advocacy, I like people to give opportunities to emerging talents. In all respects, I know of a private organisation that owns a facility and over the years made the facility available to young talents who have also grown their wisdom teeth now and are making remarkable impact in the theatre community and to the theatre going public.