by Wilfred Okiche
The premise of Mistress of Wholesome, an adaptation of the 2008 award winning play, written by Jacob M Appel is quite off beat. A one act play about a married woman’s eventful encounter with her husband’s mistress of eleven years; this simplified summary teases hints of a hugely dramatic family affair, complete with screaming, kicking and then some crying.
But the play has no business with such tired concepts that have been done to death and slightly upends the scenario, painting a slightly complex but enjoyable portrait of adultery, companionship, insecurity and the ties that bind.
Put together by the trio of Gbagyichild entertainment, Thespian Muse and Oxzygen Koncepts and directed by theatre mainstay Toyin Oshinaike, this Nigerian revival opened on Sunday 2, November at Terra Kulture and shows every Sunday in November.
The play opens in a claustrophobic apartment, and the audience is introduced to Moji, a slightly unhinged woman who has broken into the matrimonial home of her lover, Lakunle, a prominent cardiologist. It isn’t exactly clear what drives her reasoning but Moji has begun to notice that after so many years as Lakunle’s mistress, the good- or shall we say, naughty- doctor has started to pull back gradually and is on the verge of ending their relationship.
Moji has tied Lakunle up in the trunk of her car and visits his home to convince the wife, Adesuwa, a harmless dolt to help convince Lakunle to come back to her. It is twisted logic but Moji, played by Omoye Uzamere provides enough vulnerability in the midst of her outlandish, improper behaviour to draw empathy to her cause. Her actions may be a hard sell, especially in this part of the world but the chemistry with other cast members (Evaezi Ogoro as Adesuwa, and later with Toju Ejoh as the social worker who comes to assess Adesuwa and Lakunle’s suitability to adopt a baby) is genuine and together the trio manage to distill some of the play’s most hostile elements.
Mistress of wholesome which was the first stage play in 77 years to win the Writer’s Digest annual writing competition is a subtle comedy of errors and Mr Oshinaike tries to adapt it to suit Nigerian tastes. He is not always successful in this regards as Adesuwa, with her use of terms like Fiddlesticks and predilection for hiding food in the dustbin, comes across as quite unnatural, despite Ogoro’s winsome presence.
Moji and Adesuwa share some of the play’s understated witticism. They approach each other with open suspicion, and shared disbelief but by the end of the play, there is a mutual, grudging respect for the other as they share their disdain for the man who has brought them together.
As the social worker, Ejoh draws the lion’s share of the play’s physical comedy routines and he is quite expressive in his role, having a blast as he knocks down walls of resistance with his laugh out loud lines and endearing naivety. There is some flirtation with same sex relationships but it isn’t in the play’s place to explore further and this only serves as a means of conflict resolution. The play ends with a slight deviation from the original, proving that Adesuwa isn’t exactly as innocent or naïve as she has been letting on.
Mistress of wholesome does not blow you away with its production values, what it does instead is to reel you in gradually with its subtlety. With fine performances, breezy writing and a fun, engaging plot, it does make for warm, wholesome entertainment.
Mistress of wholesome shows every Sunday in November at Terrakulture, 3pm and 6pm