THE SECRET LIVES OF BABA SEGI’S WIVES had its World Premiere in Nigeria two years ago and I have been desperate to give UK artistes and audience its experience ever since.
This year, my new company The Elufowoju Jr Ensemble is putting together a 12-member strong troupe of actors/creatives to research and develop Rotimi Babatunde’s adaptation of Lola Shoneyin’s novel.
From Monday 30th November – Saturday 19th December, using an all British-Nigerian cast, my three-week mission at Theatre Royal, Stratford East will involve exploring the highly intricate indigenous lyrics, music (originally composed by Oyebade Dosunmu) and movement vocabulary (Uche Onah) of the piece. The ensemble’s objective at the end of it all, and with as much production values financially viable, is to present two workshop productions (Friday 18th & Saturday 19th December) to an invited and paying audience respectively
DRAMATIC PLOT The play originally written as a novel by Lola Shoneyin and now adapted for the stage by Caine Award winning playwright Rotimi Babatunde is full of gloriously unsavoury characters caught in a terrible web of deceit. There are ‘four wives, one husband and a devastating secret’. At the heart of this Nigerian family is Baba Segi – an overweight, flatulent, chauvinist. He’s thoroughly unlikable and if at least two of his wives, the first, Iya Segi and the third Iya Femi, weren’t so gloriously unlikable and scheming, you would have no sympathy for Baba Segi at all. The family dynamics are as follows; with his first wife, Baba Segi has two children. Their mother, Iya Segi wants nothing more than to continue to rule the household and will stop at nothing to throw her not inconsiderable weight around to show who’s boss. The second wife, Iya Tope has given Baba Segi three children. She’s timid and it’s not hard for Iya Segi to get her ‘trained’ to toe the line. Wife number three, Iya Femi, who produced another two children for Baba Segi, is a different matter altogether. With a taste for the finer things in life, and a strong belief that she has earned them, she’s a force to be reckoned with, particularly when she teams up with Iya Segi to boss Iya Tope around. When Wife number four, Bolanle, a university graduate, is introduced into the mix, unbeknownst to her, she inadvertently threatens to bring the whole house of cards tumbling down on Baba Segi’s head.
WORKSHOP PROCESS The idea is to achieve a stylised (in the round) presentation where the bulk of the narrative and physical infrastructure of the play i.e. props and furniture are imitated by the ensemble. Set and costumes will be minimal, There are 10 Yoruba (contemporary and traditional) songs to be taught and learnt and a repertoire (6 or more) highly kinetic Yoruba and Contemporary choreographed dance routines. In addition to this, the ensemble will be dissecting and rehearsing 15 intricate scenes within the play text plus devising imaginative ways of re-enacting scenes through hot-seating and improvisations. Each day ends with merging lyrics, music and movement with relevant narrative scenes. The two showcases at the end of the research and development week will be geared towards strategic cultural organisations, artistic directors, producers, programmers and potential funders for the proposed 2016 production.
The attached link was recorded during my November 2013 open dress rehearsal in Nigeria, hopefully it’ll give you a rough idea of what we’re aiming for in December 2015.https://www.dropbox.com/s/icp99yy639p285k/Baba%20Segi%20Clip.mp4?dl=0
Risks and challenges
The perennial risk of our target audience failing to embrace the spirit of our endeavours. Work in progress is often under-valued and seen as insubstantial in execution and ambition. This sometimes has a knock on effect on outreach initiatives and subsequent box office returns.
We have anticipated this level of apathy and experience has taught us to plan our marketing strategies in such a way which alleviates the anxiety of scale, form and production values – therefore guaranteeing our wonderful patrons receiving value for their money. Very exciting!!