Lala Akindoju is no stranger to ‘The Wives’, the satirical post feminist play written by legendary playwright Ahmed Yerima. The play which works as a post modernist take on feminism, incest, the tussle between traditional and Western religions and the promiscuity of men with influence and power continues to resonate with audiences more than a decade after it was first released.
YNaija chose to partner with Lala’s Make It Happen productions to co-produce another outing of the show. YNaija, always on the pulse of what young people want to read, see and hear, choose to update some portions of the play to respond to contemporary agitations, convinced that Lala’s understanding of the play and talents as a director would come through. Lala more than delivered. Here are four things we absolutely loved about the wives.
Set design is a major problem for Nigerian stage plays. I have been to quite a number of stage performances and left a little underwhelmed by the poorly thought out execution of stage sets. Lala Akindoju said in the final screening of the play that she had waited for years to revisit the wives. It shows in the quality of set. Lush contemporary design, it catapulted her audience deep into the lavish but troubled world of Chief and his wives, all proudly displayed on matte postmodernist walls. And that coffin.
Yolanda Okereke, a fashion veteran at this point, joined the project to help create distinct visual identities for the motley crew of characters that drive the Wives along. Who could forget when Shaffy Bello makes an entrance that black power dress or how Lala’s ditzy Tobi is unforgettable in her slinky iridescent number. Clothes really make the man.
BINTA AYO MOGAJI
It is easily to underestimate how powerfully a single character can inform a whole project. Aunty Mi is the very soul of The Wives and she does all the heavy lifting of moving the plot along, providing backstory for all the other characters and instigating actions that introduce the show’s powerful twist. Binta Mogaji is transcendental in this role, always poised, always present and always ready to take and give a cue, and how she telegraphs the play’s big twist will stay with me for quite a while.
HERE COMES KATE HENSHAW
Kate Henshaw plays the long suffering first wife in a marriage that has become a revolving door of wives and concubines. While her character first comes across as bitter and threatened by the other wives Chief marries rather than challenging his disloyalty and promiscuity, Kate imbues it with depth and grace, using her monologue to thoroughly humanize her character and endear her to her audience.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
It takes a while before it finally hits you that there is an elephant in the room sitting beside the wives. Chief, who never makes an appearance in the show, remains an outsize presence, still informing conversations long after his death. We piece him together by listening to his sister and his wives explain their very different experiences with him and how those interactions have influenced their lives. From long running affairs with ex-wives, a marriage that happens 24 hours after he meets Tobi and incest, Chief is as charismatic, complex and villainous as any of our best villains, and yet he somehow has the last laugh.
THE JOYS OF AN ENSEMBLE CAST
With nearly 90 years of experience between them, the cast Make It Happen and YNaija assemble to interpret their retelling of The Wives shows the power of talent, experience and professional to transform any project, we are taking all the lessons, on and offstage.