Nigeria’s Theatre Scene: The People and Places to Know
The National Arts Theatre, Lagos | © Maersk Line/Wikicommons
When the stage musical Wakaa
completely sold out on its debut in London’s West End in 2016, it was a real indicator that Nigeria’s theatre scene had taken off. Nigerian stage actors and actresses have also been finding global success, most notably in London and New York. Here we take a look at several theatre companies and individuals who continue to contribute to the Nigerian theatre scene today.
Terra Kulture Theatre
Terra Kulture is a name that is synonymous with theatre in Nigeria. Established by Bolanle Austen-Peters in 2003, Terra Kulture is an Art and Culture centre. The theatre at Terra has organised many stage plays, musicals and dance performances including Saro the Musical, Fela & the Kalakuta Queens and Wakaa the Musical. Terra Kulture hosts productions every Sunday throughout the year for both well-known and emerging artists. The centre also organises art exhibitions and auctions.
The Renegade theatre is led by Wole Oguntokun, one of Nigeria’s foremost stage directors. Renegade Theatre has produced plays such as The Vagina Monologues, Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman and Ola Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not to Blame. The company has performed in Nigeria, Ghana and the UK.
Thespian Family Theatre and Productions
Based in Ikeja, Lagos, the company aims at using unusual theatre to inspire positive change in the society. Thespian Family Theatre is led by Ayo Jaiyesimi and has produced stage plays such as The Five Maids of Fadaka, The Wizard of Law, Mad King of Ajudiya, The Trials of Brother Jero and The Lion and the Jewel.
Arojah Royal Theatre, Abuja
Arojah Royal Theatre was established in 2007. Based at the Cyprian Ekwensi Cultural Centre, located at Awka Street, Off Moshood Abiola Road, Area 10, Garki, Abuja, the theatre group has around 35 actors, actresses, dancers, singers and instrumentalists as members as well as artists in training. Performances by the group include What the Hunter Saw and Blackout.
The people shaping the scene
From the days of theatre and stage pioneers such as Hubert Ogunde, who began stage acting in 1944, and Duro Ladipo, who won a top award at the First Commonwealth Festival of Arts in 1965, the Nigerian stage and theatre scene has experienced major successes over the years. These are some of the figures who have contributed towards Nigeria’s exponential rise in theatre.
This veteran actress and director, who has featured in many local and international plays and movies, is one of the major players on the scene. Silva, along with her husband, Olu Jacobs, also an actor, produced the stage musical Heartbeat. She has been part of stage productions such as Hear Word!, The Vagina Monologues and For Coloured Girls. She also contributes to the industry by mentoring many young Nigerians in the dramatic arts through the Lufodo Academy of Performing Arts, which she founded with her husband and where she is Director of Studies.
Fafunwa is the founder and creative director of iOpenEye, a Nigerian production company that drives social change through performance art. Her stage play, Hear Word! Naija Woman Talk True, is a collection of monologues that are based on true-life stories of Nigerian women. The production is aimed at challenging social, cultural, and political norms that limit the potential and contribution of women.