Play: Iya-lle (The First Wife)

By The Ligali Organisation | Thu 11 June 2009

The Adeyemi family is back in this prequel to the ground breaking play The Estate.

I deliberately waited until I arrived in Nigeria to write this review. Arriving on Saturday, I woke up early Sunday morning not only to the sound of the cockerel but also to the proclamation of ‘only Gawd…’ as singing and prayer filled the air. I was home but simultaneously transported back to the stage of Soho theatre where the superb production of Iya-Ile is being performed.

Opening with an explosive intro, writer Oladipo Obaluaje skilfully addresses political issues such as the damage caused to local Nigerian markets by international import and exports. The play often uses powerful one liners to articulate important truths, the maxim “faith, unlike oil never dries up” is one example that exposes the attitudes and influence of the religious elite in the political arena.

Yet whilst Dipo’s powerfully humorous writing reveals a meticulously level of research, his use of biting satire to articulate a tragic family tale steeped in both traditional and modern customs is skilfully brought to life by the brilliant vision of director Femi Elufowoju Jr. From the innovative use of ‘slow motion’ to the artistic interpretation of Fela Kuti’s music such as the iconic anthem - Zombie. It is a testament to the ability of both Dipo and Femi that Iya-Ile manages to address topical issues of concern to all Africans, special mention must also be made of the quality of the exemplary performances delivered by the superb cast.

The illusion of being transported to the middle of Lagos during a time of family chaos is only made possible without perpetuating stereotypes by the superlative level of cultural authenticity presented by all involved. With poignant references to Wole Soyinka’s “wasted generation”, King Sunny Ade and Gwen Guthrie, music, passion, Pan Africanism and family politics explodes in a delicious cocktail that deserves to be made into a film for consumption by a wider audience. The Adeyemi family is indeed back - and my gawd do we want more.

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