by Hauwa Gambo
For those of us who watch Tinsel religiously every week, sometimes it can be so frustrating to see if our favourite cast frustrate with all kinds of avoidable errors. The one I cannot get over however is the accents – and it’s time someone who loves them called them out. So here we go, in order of annoyance:
I weep as I write this. What have they done with Funmi Holder? She wasn’t a house-hold name, but those who had watched her on stage and on screen before Tinsel turned her into this Amaka know that she was one of the brightest spots on our acting field. And one of her strongest suits was her delivery of lines. But on Tinsel, the only thing annoying more annoying than Amaka’s abrasive persona, is her sing-song voice. Who talks like that? Cadence is good; this however is … just ridiculous. Does Ms. Holder not watch episodes to hear how utterly otherworldly she sounds? Is there nobody on set there who can cry out: “Amaka, stop!”?
Off the set, she’s one of the most loveable Tinsel cast you will find, but there are two issues Matilda Obaseki has – none of them is unnatural; after all not everyone can speak perfectly. One is that she has something between a lisp and a sibilant; the other is that she also does not pronounce well enough – so she says ‘aks’ instead of ‘ask’ and ‘estent’ instead of ‘extent’. Incredibly, these kinds of cringe-worthy moments occur so often that you can safely decipher that there are no Take 2s on the Tinsel set. So, here’s the question: since she has this problem, why is she also burdened with the ‘Tinsel’ accent? It’s not exactly an Amaka ‘sing-song’, but it’s a run-on – when Angela speaks, she doesn’t have the normal human pauses in conversation, she just goes on and on like she has to quickly say these words and leave. It’s unnatural and takes away the power of an otherwise magnetic character. Which really calls to question the judgement of the soap’s directors.
This is another cause for tears. Surely, even the heavens know that Iretiola Doyle is one of our acting treasures, but on Tinsel, I don’t even know what’s going on. Her character, Sheila is made too talk too fast, and to sound too forced. Added to her own discernible sibilant, it’s like a rush of wind. At which point, I might add that it’s an ill wind that blows all of us no good. Then there’s that strange thing that happens when that rush of wind falls into a whisper especially when Sheila’s is angry. It’s quite awkward to watch. Aunty Ireti, doesn’t it feel awkward with you too?
The other day, in a scene with Telema speaking to Kwame about how he is such a terrible, horrible, despicable soul (which is all kinds of irritating, because we all knew who he was before she huffed and puffed her way into being his wife), I couldn’t help noticing that she spoke for almost 5 minutes without her hand moving for a minute! Actors know this is incredibly hard to carry off – so Damilola Adegbite gets props for that. What she doesn’t get props for though is her queen of all fake accents. She’s caught between the Tinsel accent epidemic and the strange need for Nigerian actresses to imitate a British or American or Chinese accent depending on their mood. This kind of thing just makes people stop taking her seriously.
Sometimes I feel so sorry for Poor Gbenro Ajibade – valiantly carrying a cross that’s too heavy for him to bear. There is always a ring-out alarm when he speaks on Tinsel – like this is a young man forced to lift a character he is ill-equipped to handle without at least a year’s worth of acting classes and voice coaching. And is it really necessary? I thought his character is supposed to be a successful but still relatively broke photographer? And isn’t he supposed to be from the ghetto or something? So why do they give him lines for him to speak the kind of English that in an accent that always makes him look visibly constipated? Is this not man’s inhumanity to man?
First, Gideon Okeke has surprised me with just how much he has settled into his character, so he certainly deserves more than a little praise. But he is also caught in the Tinsel web. What exactly is Philip’s accent? British? South African? Victoria Island-ian? And why does he have to pitch sometimes like he is in the opera? Tinsel is a Nigerian soap dude! So if you will be the spoiled child of a rich man you have two options – you come at me with stiff upper lip of the British, with the perfect drawl of the American and you make sure it’s flawless. If you can’t, then I’d be darned, forget that thing and focus on pronouncing your words clearly and speaking normally like a good Nigerian boy that went to a good school. Gideon always sounds like he is trying too hard. Scratch that. He is trying too hard. It’s not necessary, man: you is smart. you is talented. you is a good actor.
To be honest? This act has gotten rather old, fast. The entire love affair between Shalewa and Titan kept us glued, but now her ‘Bad English’ and ‘Yoruba intonation’ are no longer amusing. How does a girl who went to village schools, can hardly read and write and can’t string a word together fluently speak about civil rights and Che Guevara and petitions? Too often the Tinsel guys make Tomi Odunsi sound silly by incongruously mixing perfect English with “Shalewa English”. They have to focus. Soaps are generally about borderline plausibility, so we’re not asking for utmost believability. But the Tinsel directors just slap our intelligence around. Wo, very soon we will begin to stone Shalewa through the TV screens when she comes on. You just watch.
(Brenda is back! Read our last Weekly Tinsel Review HERE)
So there you go. And, note, I didn’t list Brenda and Fred ‘cause I love their accents as they are – the exaggeration on Brenda’s part fits with her character and the deliberateness of Fred’s is paced and dignified. The others however, need to get over theirs – don’t they hear the way Kwame and Tare speak? Why do Nigerians always like to disgrace me in front of foreigners ehn?