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Ovonramwen Nogbaisi: Atlantic Hall students again celebrate Ola Rotimi

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Students of Atlantic Hall again proved their mettle during their presentation of the late Ola Rotimi’s Ovonramwen Nogbaisi at the MUSON Centre, Lagos.

HAILED last year for their impressive presentation of the late Professor Ola Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not to Blame, members of the Drama Club, Atlantic Hall, Poka, Epe, Lagos, again excelled on February 17, when they presented another of the playwright’s works, ‘OvonramwenNogbaisi’.

While the venue, Agip Recital Hall, MUSON Centre, Onikan, was filled to capacity last year, it overflowed this time around with emergency seating arrangements having to be made for some parents, pupils, and guests in a move that indicated the growing popularity of drama in the school. In fact, the aisles became emergency seating spaces with chairs brought from outside but despite this, some of the pupils had to share some of the alternative seats.

And like they did during the last outing when they paid compliments to the talents of Rotimi by making his play come alive on stage, the students under the direction of Gboyega Jerome, again, didn’t drop the ball. They were outstanding and deservedly got a standing ovation for their effort when the curtain fell.

Employing two narrators to aid their presentation, the students re-enacted the trials of Ovonramwen, the king sent into exile in Calabar by the British after their invasion and looting of the great Benin Kingdom in 1897.

With their eyes set on the immense wealth of Benin and the fact that the mighty city-state was blocking their route to the oil-rich Rivers protectorate, the British resort to various tricks to annex Benin. First, they come as friends, bearing gifts from the Queen to Oba Ovonramwen. The intelligent but short-tempered king, however, sees through their wiles and rejects the gifts.

The colonialists led by the Consul, James Robert Phillips, and Captain Galloway thereafter cook up another plot. An invasion force set to overthrow the Oba hides weapons in gift boxes, with troops disguised as porters. They attempt to enter Benin during an important festival when the king does not receive visitors but are turned back.

Despite this, Phillips sends his stick to the Oba, an action intended to provoke a crisis between the British and the Bini people. Eventually, Phillip’s expedition is ambushed and all but two men spared. This becomes the perfect opportunity for the British, who have been coveting the empire for long, to attack the city and annex it while deposing the Oba.

Ovonramwen Nogbaisi, whose name means ‘The rising sun which spreads over all’ in English escapes into the bush and continues the fight for another six months before eventually surrendering to the colonialists.

Though he had been warned by an Ifa priest to exercise caution in dealing with the Europeans, Ovonramwen is unable to avert the desecration and looting of his kingdom because he appeared to misunderstand the god’s message.

“The shadows are too heavy; heavy and dark. Your reign is full of danger; I see bodies of men burning in an ocean of blood. I say caution, caution to avert the disaster,” the Ifa priest from Ife tells the King who is not in good terms with some of his chiefs including the powerful and influential Ologbosere. Assuming that the warning has to do with Benin, Ovonramwen orders the killing of some rebellious chiefs he perceives as attempting to usurp him. After the invasion and his eventual surrender to British who do their best to demystify him by conducting his so-called trial openly, he is exiled to Calabar.

Fittingly, what some of the students lack in terms of acting skills, they made up for with their efforts.  Jason Okpere who played the Ifa priest and Okah David (Ologbosere) fall into this category while BughieDirisudieko (Oba Ovonramwen), EbubeOraelosi (Gallwey) and FinutanOnanuga (Captain Phillips) were outstanding.

Dirisudieko, who is the president of the school’s Drama Club, comported himself regally and spoke like one, while Oraelosi and Onanuga’s British accents were spot on. Also complementing the acting was the appropriate costume, hairstyles and simple but elegant stage sponsored by the school’s parents-teachers’ association.   Overall, it was an excellent outing from the school where, as confirmed by the principal, Andrew Jedras, and evident from their presentation, drama has continued to thrive.

The post Ovonramwen Nogbaisi: Atlantic Hall students again celebrate Ola Rotimi appeared first on Tribune.

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