HEAR Word, the theatrical production directed by Ifeoma Fafunwa is still on stage at the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lgaos. The production delivered by some of Nigeria’s best known and talented actresses provided an intimate view into the lives of Nigerian women, their lifestyles and the many abuses they suffer. Actresses in this production included veteran and ageless Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Joke Silva, Iretiola Doyle, Bimbo Akintola, Dakore Akande and others.
Madam Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Dakore Akande and Elvina Ibru spoke to ENCOMIUM Weekly about their roles in the first class production.
THREE months after she delivered her second baby, actress Dakore Egbuson returned to the stage. She is one of the cast of the play, Hear Word.
What role did you play in the play, Hear Word?
I played the role of a Nigerian woman who is a conformist, she listens to all the limitations that has been placed on her life. But as soon as she realizes she has a God given talent, she frees herself from those shackles and blossomed.
Why do you think the producer of the stage play chose you for this type of role?
I wouldn’t know. Last year, I was in the cast of Vagina Monologue, I guess they enjoyed my performance so they asked me to come for this. This is more explanatory and different. Last year’s was a bit abstract, I guess, I was able to represent that character that was why they chose me.
Did you participate in the Mushin market episode?
No, I couldn’t make it. I would have loved to be at Mushin market but my daughter was ill, she is fine now.
Did you even consider going there to act a play in the market place?
Yes, I grew up going to the market with my mom, she is a caterer. Whenever she was going to the market, I went with her, I know few markets in Lagos, Mushin Olosa, Tejuosho market, Sandgrouse. For the fact that I stay in Victoria Island, Lagos does not mean I wouldn’t know those places, I am a woman, a wife and I cook.
With the message in Hear Word, which is largely feminism, have you always advocated for the right of the woman?
Rather, I am a humanist, not necessarily feminist. I believe in gender equality. God created us all equally and gave us talents to achieve our goals. It is the society that made things difficult for women to explore their God given talents, that’s wrong. I have two daughters and I want to leave a better legacy for them. Look at the increasing case of domestic violence on women, the Chibok girls. We need to remove all these things, we need to start talking about them.
Is this your first job after you returned from child birth?
Yes, this is my first job and it’s amazing working with this cast. They are those I have always admired while growing.
You must have missed a lot while away for your second baby delivery?
Yes, however, I starred in a newly released movie with Uche Jombo and some others. I have been busy, if not for the baby I would have done more.
Are we now going to be seeing you on stage more than in movies?
I want to do both simultaneously. I don’t want to leave movie for stage, it is just another form of expression, another form of expansion for me as an artiste. I don’t want to be confined to a spot.
You don’t appear as someone who has dropped two babies?
I work really hard to keep fit. When I was pregnant, I didn’t eat junks because I knew after the baby must have arrived I would be going back to work.
Who is now taking care of the kids at home?
My mom is with them at home, my nanny is also at home. By the grace of God, I have a great support system. They believe in what I am doing, they are the one, who even encourage me to forge ahead, so I can give my all to the job.
What works for you in balancing marriage and career?
I prioritise, the home first and when my husband realizes I am deviating from my duty I have to push myself back. Family first and once family has been taken care of I can then fly.
There is this belief that marriage slows people down, what is your experience?
Yes, marriage slows people down if you allow it, if you let it. I believe a woman can have it all but not at the same time, you have to do things one at a time. Marriage will slow you down but you shouldn’t let it stop you.
VETERAN actress, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett portrayed a role of an old woman who still remains sexually active in the play, Hear Word. She talks about this and her staying power in the industry.
This play is a form of revival for stage play which you have always loved to see. What is your impression about this?
More is yet to come, it is wonderful to see stage play coming back to life. We now have a vibrant entertainment industry. It will only get better, I have always believed in facing the audience as an actor to express myself. You can’t go on stage without adequate preparation, you will leave with shame. Any artiste needs that, confidence and be able to give your all. You are as good as your last performance. It is like a professional footballer, at every match you must be at your best all the time or else no glory. In theatre, you think about how to dialogue with the audience, with the world you can’t come on stage without knowing what to say. Theatre grooms you, enables you to be the best in whatever you do and this rubs off on other parts of your life.
You have been there for long, what is your staying power?
If you live your life in a disciplined way, approach your work in a professional way and treat your audience with respect, you will go far. If you do these, people around you become your knowledge, they become what you think. That is not too difficult to do, knowledge is power, if you have knowledge, you do things effortlessly. Things come to you naturally. I have done this for so many years, I think it is all about the discipline that I always embrace. People ask me what is my religion, my religion is people, my religion is theatre. Theatre is always talking and acting human conditions and I am interested in people. What I love about theatre is that people come together to work to produce something. There is the script writer, the costumier, the director, the cameraman, all work together to make a star.
How would you describe the role you played in Hear Word?
I am an old woman in the play and in real life. I am 73, so I am older. The society doesn’t think older women don’t exist anymore, nobody thinks they feel anything. The people around old women never realize they are going through a turmoil, nobody cares about them. So, what I am trying to portray is that it’s not over until it is over. That an old woman is still alive in more ways than one, they still have sexual urges, people forget an old woman is human. She still loves and cares about her husband. An old woman enjoys her sexual life more when she no longer thinks about the children school fees, when the children’s have all gone to their husbands’ houses or in some cases the boys have married and it remains only the old woman and her husband. But because we don’t care, it never crosses our mind that these old parents can still get on whenever they like. Do you know that when an old man realizes he is free from child bearing, he becomes promiscuous and they are susceptible to all kinds of diseases? But the old woman is confined to a corner in the house, nobody thinks she is still sexually active.
BILLIONAIRE’s daughter, Elvina Ibru also participated in the play, Hear Word. She talked about her role and other things.
This is one part many don’t know about you, how did it all start?
I have been acting since I was five years. My first role was in Corona Schools, Lagos. As I grew older, I realized I have a flair for it. When I was in school in England, I was in the drama class, I was involved in anything that had to do with theatre. I did my A’levels and then went to theatre school and when I graduated, I worked in England for two years. It is not new to me, only that people don’t seem to take me serious that I can act until they watched me on stage.
The Ibru family is known for business, where did you pick up the interest in entertainment?
My mother was a banker back in the 60s. She worked for the defunct African Continental Bank (ACB), she was the first female bank manager in Nigeria and then my father is a man of foresight, he foresaw everything and arranged the company. The idea of setting up a bank was by my mother who adviced my father to start one. That’s how Oceanic came up and unfortunately when the bank was about to open she passed on. My mother was brilliant, my father too brilliant. I guess I picked up the interest in entertainment from them. The unity of two brains exploded to become what is known today as the Ibru Organization.
How would you explain your role in the play, Hear Word?
I played double roles, Mama Azuka, an Igbo woman who is more concerned about her daughter getting married at the right time and another one, I played the role of a woman doing everything possible to have her own child.
The play talks about the many abuses the woman suffers. Did you ever experience any form of abuse while growing?
Everyone have been abused one way or the other. I remember when we were young, an uncle tried to touch my leg, winked at me. Even though nobody came that close to me it was harrowing. Every woman has suffered one abuse or the other.
Will you do more plays now?
I would love to. I don’t just get scripts that impress me. If I get a script that I like I will definitely act, I want to be in Nollywood.
– Interviews by FOLUSO SAMUEL