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Producer, actors relive memory of Lagos Theatre Festival 2024

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  • March 31, 2024
  • 5 min read
Producer, actors relive memory of Lagos Theatre Festival 2024
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* The making of Before I Let You Go

By Editor

ALTHOUGH a soiree/press night heralded it on Thursday, February 29, Saturday March 2, 2024 was the D-day when Lagos Theatre Festival (LTF 2024) was held at Freedom Park, Lagos. It was the 9th edition of Lagos Theatre Festival that has grown into anticipated annual ritual, where theatre enthusiasts and practitioners eagerly look forward to satiate their longings for a unique theatre style.

Positioned to explore unconventional methods in Nigeria theatre landscape, this year’s edition had as theme ‘Showcase 2024’ and lived up to its billings. LTF 2024 featured four productions in one day, including three from Nigeria and one from the Republic of Ireland.

An experienced stage actor, Tosin Adeyemi, was festival producer and starred in the play Before I Let You Go for B/Rated Productions. It had an amazing cast that included Tope Tedela and Amanda Iriekpen.

While reminiscing on the success of LTF 2024, Adeyemi spoke about the festival’s immense contributions to the cultural landscape of Lagos and the wider Nigerian theatre scene, noting that it has been monumental in terms of impact on the ecosystem.

“Lagos Theatre Festival has been part of us for 9 years,” Adeyemi said, noting that its influence translates to “…9 years of funding, support and tremendous growth.”

On the level of participation this year and how much of her expectation was met, Adeyemi said, “At every edition of the festival, people have always come from all over the world to Freedom Park, Lagos, to partake in the cultural feast. We have hosted 9 festivals, with over 203 productions, 52 workshops/panels and over 590 shows. We have reached over 42,800 physically and over 770 million online. A huge feat, if I must say so myself. We curate plays, concerts, poetry sessions, workshops that reflect our traditions, beliefs, culture, society and more. We also have showcases and markets included in the programming of the festival. Imagine walking into the hub (Freedom Park), and you are greeted with spectacular views, paintings, materials, fabrics, accessories, storytelling that are particular to Africa.

“This is what Lagos Theatre Festival does. We promote our culture by combining every single thing that is African and present it to you for your appreciation. Providing this platform for emerging and established artists to continue to produce impactful work has been the objective of the festival, and we are committed to running with this vision.”

Bunmi Sogade(actor), Tosin Adeyemi (festival Director) And Temitope Omobolanle Atitebi (actor) (1)

Bunmi Sogade(left); Lagos Theatre Festival Director, Tosin Adeyemi and Temitope Omobolanle Atitebi

Adeyemi, who doubled as producer of the play Before I Let You Go, said the first hurdle was how short a time she had to prepare and to get a script worthy of expression. However, she said she was more particular about the characters Irene and Gbenga, and who the actors would be.

“I was optimistic that we would get the best,” she said. “Before I Let You Go is a dialogue-driven play and the actors needed to be conversational in their delivery. Eventually, I found the best actors, I must say. Tope Tedela and Amanda Iriekpen killed every line, every look, every reaction and the audience felt every single moment. In the end, we achieved our goal of a befitting show!”

Equally ecstatic about the success of the play was its director Bimbo Olorunmola, who said that while it was pretty difficult to identify the most memorable moment from rehearsals to the stage performance, from the point when he got the script till the play was staged, the performance remains indelible in his mind.

“Thankfully, we got Tope and Amanda who are heavyweights in their own rights with a great profile in the industry and we pulled it off,” Olorunmola said. “Also, you know directing actors with such profiles presents its own challenges. I haven’t had the opportunity to direct this profile of actors, so that was one landmark for me. Doing a 2-man piece can be pretty hard. The goal was to present something intimate, drawing the audience into the play via Irene and Gbenga’s connection and bringing the nuances of two people, just having conversation without being overly dramatic with unnecessary movements and the actors being “larger than life” like a lot of people imagine that theatre should be.”

The female actor, Iriekpen, said she had little expectations prior to rehearsals, but which would later be surpassed, adding, “At first, I was scared I didn’t have enough time to get all the lines whilst understanding the character and that I might eventually flop. I had to intentionally programme my mind to believing it was already perfect even though I had no clue what I was doing. When rehearsals started, it took me a while to adjust to certain rules of stage performances like moving around the space and being really audible, but I’m a quick learner. So thankfully, I could grasp a lot in a short time. In all, I had an amazing experience and I’d definitely love to do it again.”

The male actor Tedela said: “I was drawn to the juxtaposition of Lagos as a character, the idea of love at first sight, witty dialogue, the exploration of family dynamics and the realities of migration, aka ‘japa’, in this day and age. The play examines these themes without being overly pedantic while setting up an entertaining journey to take audiences on.

“It was an amazing experience working with Bimbo and Tosin of B/Rated Productions who are not only deft at their roles of director and producer, respectively, but also great human beings. It was a marvel watching the director shape and reshape the material while taking feedback from the team. And working with my co-star Amanda Iriekpen was a most pleasurable experience: she grilled me and was willing to go the extra mile. We turned out better for it.”

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