“When the gods commend, we men must obey!” This statement from the play sums up the thrust of Ola Rotimi’s classic play, The Gods Are Not To Blame. Odewale, the central character is destined from birth to “kill his father and marry his mother…” a taboo in African socio-cultural setting. The play is based on Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and it touches on the nerve of an African society where a man by fate is “condemned” to fail.
Odewale, born to King Adetusa and his wife Queen Ojuola, the King and Queen of Kutuje, as a baby is to be sacrificed to the gods because his birth is considered as bad omen: a child pre-destined to kill his father and marry the same woman who gave him birth. Gbonka, King Adetusa’s special messenger, is asked to carry out this rite, but he allows compassion to take the better part of him and he spares Odewale’s life, giving him instead to the hunter Ogundele, in another village in Ijekun to foster. Soon after, King Adetusa and Queen Ojuola have another son, Aderopo “to fill the nothingness left behind by the first”.
As fate would have it, Odewale grows up strong and temperamental and confronts his biological father (unknown to them both) on a farm in Ede, “a place where three footpath meet”. An argument ensues over the ownership of the farm and King Adetusa makes mockery of Odewale’s mother tongue, calling him a “man from the bush tribe of Ijekun”. Odewale allows raw anger to overshadow his reasoning and strikes King Adetusa dead and then flees; hence the first part of the oracle pronouncement come to pass.
Kutuje is left without a King, the neigbhouring village; Ikolu takes advantage of this and attacks Kutuje. Odewale comes to the rescue of Kutuje and liberates them from the pangs of Ikolu. In gratitude the people of Kutuje make Odewale KING and he marries Queen Ojuola as is the tradition, thus fulfilling the second half of the pronouncement of the gods. The union between Odewale and Queen Ojuola produces four children and calamity begins to plague Kutuje.
But is it enough to blame the gods or any entity for a man’s downfall? Could a man’s flaws: character traits, utterances, temper, determination to avert disaster also be blamed for catastrophe that befalls him?
Thespian Family Theatre and Productions in collaboration with Heavy Wind Media Productions UK present Ola Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not To Blame at Lost Theatre, London in the last week of April 2015. Thespian Family Theatre and Productions headed by Ayo Jaiyesimi is an emerging theatre company in Lagos, Nigeria and within the shortest space of time of existence has successfully staged remarkable productions to the delights of teeming audiences. Heavy Wind Media Productions prides itself in staging classic African plays in the heart of London to reflect and re-enforce the African traditions, culture and nuances in the midst of other multi-cultural plays that fill London stages.
According to the artistic director of the play, Lookman Sanusi, who staged another successful play of Ola Rotimi, Our Husband has gone Mad Again, during the London 2012 Culture Olympiad, “ this production is tagged a ‘Film-Play’, where the audience will be treated to moving images on a cyclorama and actions on stage. This is an inter-media concept where there will be constant flow of actions from the screen to the stage.”The idea is to expand the world of the play beyond the physical stage by bringing in exotic scenery: the African rustic setting, sounds and euphoria to enrich for the London audience the authentic African cultural experience while entertaining them with a classic African play.
It is essential that the audience not only sympathises with the character of Odewale but also learns from and emulates the good aspects of him; his selfless nature and willingness to take care of his subjects, vows to expose the truth about the killer of King Adetusa and the punishment for the perpetrator of the heinous crime (even though it all points to him, he sees it to the end) and the ultimate self-sacrifice to bring succor to his people by self-exile.
The play stars veteran actor, Dejumo Lewis (The Oloja of Oja of the defunct Nigerian Television Authority’s Village Headmaster drama series). Toyin Oshinaiki and Olarotimi Fakunle are both actors travelling from Nigeria to join the London cast which also includes Moji Bamtefa (Meet The Adebanjo), Segun Ogunfidodo (Our Husband has gone Mad Again), Tolulope Yesufu (Shattered Heart), Ayo Oyedapo (Shameful Deceit), Ahmed Aliu, Prince Tade Olusile, Cecilia Sanusi-Olawale, Nike Bammeke, Bidemi Alaran (Our Husband has gone Mad Again) Felix Ologbosere, Yemi Oyeyebi and Frank Oluwole Williams (Of Mice and Men) among others. A German-based Nigerian actor Jubril Sulaimon will also join the cast. The creative team includes Kristina Simakova (stage manager), Ibukun Fasuhan (production manager), Omoyemi Oni (Media), Lara Adebari (finance) Abimbola kujore (graphics) and Chermiah Hart is on technical and editing.
The production enjoys support of The Ola Rotimi Foundation, Bubbles FM, Transformation Network, and Cross Atlantic FM UK.
VENUE: LOST THEATRE (208, Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2JU,
(Northern Line or Victoria Line to Stockwell Station then 7 minutes walk)
DATE: SUNDAY 26TH – THURSDAY 30TH APRIL 2015
TIME: 8:00PM EACH DAY
GATE FEE: £15, CONSC. £12.50 (STUDENT WITH ID) £8 (CHILDREN)