It was a cozy – and fun – evening at Terra Kulture on the 3rd of September, at the premiere of the stage play ‘To love a ghost’. The event started with a cocktail reception, completre with flashing cameras and TV interviews. Guests settled into the hall to a soul-stirring romantic song on the piano by Seun Kudeki titled Oyinkan was rendered and the play began. The play is produced by Ifeanyi Dibia, who is also one of the actors on Mnet’s Tinsel.
REVIEW: TO LOVE A GHOST
Written by Ita Hozaife / Directed by Kenneth Uphopho
Review by Tolu Ogunlesi
Lois is a dying teenage girl. To put it more accurately, her body is what is dying, ravaged by illness. There is another Lois, alive and full of wit.
“I am the ghost, soul, spirit if you like, of that body on the bed. My name is – was – is – was – Am I past or present? – my name is – was – Lois,” the protagonist – and narrator – of the play informs us at the beginning.
That confused stance is a fitting metaphor for the state of the generation to which Lois belongs; a generation battered and betrayed by their elders. (In the words of Lois: “The young are now sacrificed so that the old can grow older.”)
Ita Hozaife’s “To Love a Ghost” is the story of that grand betrayal; woven around Lois-the-Soul’s sardonic, clear-eyed, moving, yet often unsympathetic narration of the tragic life and times of Lois-the-Victim, who lies beneath a sheet on a hospital bed set at one corner of the stage, a haunting presence for the entire duration of the play.
The publicity material for the play describes it as an “intriguing yet gripping story of the travails of child abuse.” In truth the play, directed by Kenneth Uphopho, sketches itself out on a canvas large enough for the phrase “child abuse” to seem inadequate in capturing it in full. The people’s ‘opium’, Religion, and their ‘nemesis’, Politics and Politicians, do not escape Hozaife’s crosshairs.
Pastor Benjamin, smooth talking man of God (Of him Lois the Soul says: “It only takes costume and plenty grammar”), as disconnected from his “sheep” as he is from the God he pretends to be serving is a sexual predator; as are Uncle, the crooked politician to whom Lois’ mother purveys her as a domestic assistant, and Teacher, grammar-murdering face of the educational system.
Lois is their victim.
But at the end of the day everyone is a victim; in the light of the revelation that (Spoiler Alert) Lois is HIV-positive, one can only imagine the fate of Teacher, Pastor and Uncle, who have all had sex with her.
“To Love a Ghost” is not an elaborate or complicated tale, and is driven not by suspense but by wit and verbal ingenuity. Lois and Pastor and Teacher deliver inspiring performances in their roles. All the male characters in the play are malevolent beyond redemption, from Lois’ father who sires close to a dozen children and dies leaving nothing material behind, to Pastor and Teacher and Uncle.
But not even the women are any more inspiring. Lois’ mother is pesky and domineering, and the rest of the women are to be found either in Pastor Benjamin’s congregation, singing the praises of his god, or in Uncle’s political rallies, singing his praises and demanding “pepper” as instant reward for their decision to vote for him.
“To Love a Ghost” is a play minimalist in plot and staging, but ambitious in reach; exploring the complicated forces that conspire to keep young people vulnerable to the abusive impulses of those who should protect and nurture them.
“Imagine a world where death is favoured to life. Imagine a world where the birth of a child is mourned, and the death of another celebrated…” Lois asks the audience in the final moments of the play.
But we really don’t have to imagine that world. It is as much our world as it is the one she has just sketched very vividly before our eyes.