3rd Night’s Performance Photos of “54 Silhouettes” in Abuja

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Listen to the radio version of 54 Silhouettes here or here.

More photos:
1st night’s performance photos of “54 Silhouettes” in Abuja.
2nd night’s performance photos off “54 Silhouettes” in Abuja.

2nd Night’s Performance Photos of “54 Silhouettes” in Abuja

Earlier this December, A.R.T thrilled audiences in Abuja with a riveting stage performance of double award winning play 54 Silhouettes at the French Institut of Nigeria. Now you can re-live the experience of the second night’s performance through the captivating photography of Timothy Aideloje of Jtimdal Photography (@jtimdal)

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Listen to the radio version of 54 Silhouettes here or here.

More photos:
1st night’s performance photos of “54 Silhouettes” in Abuja.
3rd night’s performance photos of “54 Silhouettes” in Abuja.

1st Night’s Performance Photos of “54 Silhouettes” in Abuja

Earlier this December, A.R.T thrilled audiences in Abuja with a riveting stage performance of double award winning play 54 Silhouettes at the French Institut of Nigeria. Now you can re-live the experience of the first night’s performance through the captivating photography of Timothy Aideloje of Jtimdal Photography (@jtimdal)

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Listen to the radio version of 54 Silhouettes here or here.

More photos:
2nd night’s performance photos of “54 Silhouettes” in Abuja.
3rd night’s performance photos of “54 Silhouettes” in Abuja.

Announcing Encore Performance of “54 Silhouettes”

We are delighted to announce that due to audience demands for an encore performance 54 Silhouettes will be hitting the stage once again today, Saturday 7th December at the French Institut, Wuse 2. Don’t miss out on the most creative show to hit Abuja in years!

Venue: French Institut, Wuse 2 (beside Mr. Biggs)
Date: Saturday, 7th December
Time: 7pm
Tickets: N2000

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Audience Feedback from the Second Night’s Performance of “54 Silhouettes”

Another night of performance. Another audience. Another great performance. Don’t miss the final night of 54 Silhouettes today at the French Institut, Wuse 2 (beside Mr. Biggs.). Meanwhile, here’s what our audience from the second night’s performance had to say about the play.

Chinelo Onwualu said,
“An excellent production. Great writing, acting and very professional. Very, very good job. Hopefully next time you’ll have sponsorship to better set.”

Stella Iyimoga said,
“Commendable. I really enjoyed it.”

Patrick Otoro said,
“Great job. Enjoyed it.”

Maureen Chima said,
“Wonderful play plus fantastic performance.”

Ifesinachi Ekwueme said,
“Thumbs up. Really uplifting.”

Odumuh Emmanuella O. said,
“The play and its production was mind-blowing, educating and entertaining throughout. This foundation should continue to grow because it will go beyond.”

Agboola Damilola said,
“Absolutely unexpected delivery. Creative. Obvious effort. Passion and hard work. This is pure success, the world won’t hear the last of it.”

Naomi A. said,
“A wonderful performance, just a little lapses.”

Angela Agbegir said,
“It was a wonderful performance. Great to see you guys on stage again, I’m impressed!!!”

Ohuabunwa Emilia said,
“Good play and I really enjoyed myself but the scene changing took sometime. Just keep up with the spirit of the arts, because its in you guys.”

Bankole Tokunbo said,
“Such a wonderful experience, every scene was catching.”

Walter Okoye said,
“Fantastic show.”

India Chidimma Kalu said,
“Very interesting, I really enjoyed myself. Keep it going.”

Joseph Ibeh said,
“Wonderful performance. I wish more sponsors come in and move this to its right place.”

Mariam Momodu said,
“Fabulous performance. I like the director, reminds me of Ari Gold in Entourage.”

Toyosi Giwa said,
“Compelling. Engaging. Some scenes too long.”

Ndubisi Ekwueme said,
“Very good. More sponsors, awareness, perseverance and a bigger and more expressive stage will move actors and new plays.”

Greg Odogwu said,
“The guys are good. Intensity. Very good portrayals, perfect technicals. Needs more work.”

Allison Hubbert said,
“A very interesting play.”

Hibbert Keni said,
“Nice script. Wonderful presentation. Had fun watching.”

Mrs. Joy Ebichi Ndimele said,
“A very wonderful show. Thumbs up guys.”

Mr. Okechukwu Ndimele said,
“Excellent.”

Aigbefo Charity said,
“Whoa! I love every bit of it. Giving Africa its proper place. Though funny but effective performance.”

Teju Olashoju Dapson said,
“I’m so much impressed. Learnt so much from it.”

Stephanie said,
“Awesome.”

Kosy said,
“Lovely. Great acting.”

Anne Daniels said,
“Interesting and creative, never could be better.”

Abdul Y. said,
“Perfect.”

Mr. Charles James Ebichi said,
“I really enjoyed the play and wish to watch it again and again.”

Gen Tayo said,
“Excellent.”

Evagreen said,
“Awesome.”

Doofan Lois Ierkpen said,
“Satisfactory.”

Listen to the radio version of 54 Silhouettes here or here.

Audience Feedback from the First Night Performance of “54 Silhouettes” in Abuja

The first night of performance of 54 Silhouettes was a blast! Our love goes out to everyone who came out to share the passion of theatre with us. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. Here’s the feedback we got from the audience after the first night.

Otun Ayopo said,
“Nice stage play (act). Projection was on point. So also the various languages were well put. Awesome play!!!”

Patrick David said,
“One word, wowed!!!”

Precious Ubani said,
“Wow! A very nice script interpretation, stage presence. Most of all I love the diction and wit. You guys rock. Glad I came to see this.”

Comedy said,
“Nice act. Use microphones next time.”

Abah Odachi said,
“Great play.”

Mustapha Rafiu said,
“Very amazing and awesome performance. Never expected to get such talents. Very impressive.”

Rabi Usman said,
Awesome performance! Loved it!”

Mairo Tijani said,
“Love the storyline. Nice individual acts, stage setting. Hmmm!”

Oliver Gainford said,
“Excellent! Really interesting idea – self interest and public. Great acting.”

Moses Audu said,
“Really lively play.”

Aiyegbusi Demilade said,
“Realistic and interesting performance. Thumbs up to all the participants.”

Kayode Aiyegbusi said,
“Great play. Great acting – we need more of this.”

Nwosu Chidozie Kingsley said,
“Good.”

Nwosu Iheoma Nkem said,
“Interesting.”

Chizzy said,
“The characters of 54 Silhouettes are very good. African Renaissance Theatre keep it up and bring a change.”

Arthur Victor said,
“Good. Well played.”

M.O.G Ogugua Felix said,
“Cool and nice performance.”

Listen to the radio version of 54 Silhouettes here or here.

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This December in ABUJA! Double award winning play “54 Silhouettes” LIVE ON STAGE!

Venue: French Institut, Wuse 2, Abuja (Beside Mr. Biggs)
Date: Thursday 5th & Friday 6th December
Time: 6pm (pre-show entertainment), 7pm (main show)
Tickets: N2000

Audience Reactions to the Premiere Performance of “54 Silhouettes” in Jos

Ishaya Nathaniel said,
“Never a fan of theatre performance, but I think I am one now. So interesting. The best so far.”

Charminboi Nimyel said,
“Totally exhilarating, exciting and innovative. Love the piece and writing… better days ahead!!!”

Carmen McCain said,
“Really great dialogue, important response to the Hollywood ‘Africa image’.

Mohammed Ado Ibrahim said,
“Had a wonderful time watching you guys perform, fantastic!”

Meagan Mark said,
“Great!”

Ruth McDowell said,
“Great play.”

Joy Egiri said,
Wonderful. Nice. But you can do better.

Gabriel Ishaya said,
“Nice presentation, keep it up.”

Hope Bulus said,
“Keep it up. Had a wonderful time.”

Buwah Uram Lilian said,
“Some lyrical sh*t, if it were music, but… whew! It was awesome. I really enjoyed it. Rich talent… I wish you guys the best.”

Terna Tarkehe said,
“Men, you people are magically wonderful. Please keep it up.”

Chyke said,
“Nice enactment. Keep it rocking.”

Imoh Emeka said,
“Really happy and appreciate your effort in bringing out these from yourselves. Asking God for his protection and guidance throughout this project.”

Patience Godwin said,
“It was excellent.”

Efe Ejeba said,
“Great play…Please do it again.”

Jonathan Nimpar said,
“Great acting. I’m impressed with the acting.”

Adam Zainab Yakubu said,
“This is a remarkable display of true patriotism and artistry. I hope to catch you next on this. Came all the way from Bauchi.”

David Yohanna said,
“I’ll definitely love to be informed about subsequent productions, thank you. More support should be given to this event.”

Listen to the radio version of 54 Silhouettes here or here.

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This December in ABUJA! Double award winning play 54 Silhouettes written and directed by Africa Ukoh, LIVE ON STAGE!

Venue: French Institut, Wuse 2, Abuja (Beside Mr. Biggs)
Date: 5th & 6th December
Time: 6pm (pre-show entertainment), 7pm (main show)
Tickets: N2000

Costumes and accessories by ONTOP Apparel, a leader in top quality fashion. Photography by Victor Audu from VIA Concepts.

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Related stories:
African Renaissance Theatre & Entertainment announces Abuja performance of 54 Silhouettes.
Put your creativity to the test with A.R.T’s Creative Interpretation Challenge.
Meet the actors from 54 Silhouettes.
Meet the characters from 54 Silhouettes.
Check out the new ensemble photo for our Abuja performance of 54 Silhouettes.

New Ensemble Photo for Abuja Performance of “54 Silhouettes”

Don’t you just love photography? We’ve got a brand new ensemble promo photo ahead of our performance of 54 Silhouettes in Abuja. Check it out and let us know what you think.

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Photography by Victor Audu from VIA Concepts. Costumes and accessories by ONTOP Apparel, (Jos Plateau state), a leader in top quality fashion.

Meet the Characters from Our Upcoming Performance of “54 Silhouettes”

54 Silhouettes plays host (see what we did there?) to a multi-cultural array of characters. Photographer Victor Audu captures this with some eye catching photography. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the characters:

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Costumes and accessories by ONTOP Apparel, a leader in top quality fashion. Photography by Victor Audu from VIA Concepts.

This December in ABUJA! Double award winning play 54 Silhouettes LIVE ON STAGE!

Venue: French Institut, Wuse 2, Abuja (Beside Mr. Biggs)
Date: 5th & 6th December
Time: 6pm (pre-show entertainment), 7pm (main show)
Tickets: N2000

1st runner up, BBC African Performance competition, 2011.
Winner, Stratford East/30 Nigeria House award.

Related stories:
A.R.T announces Abuja performance of 54 Silhouettes.
put your creativity to the test with A.R.T’s Creative Interpretation Challenge.
Meet the actors from our upcoming performance of 54 Silhouettes.

Premiere stage performance of Africa Ukoh’s play “54 Silhouettes” skewers Hollywood

“I’m not really in the mood to do any raping today.” One of the best one-liners I’ve heard ends Africa Ukoh’s brilliant play 54 Silhouettes, a satire about Hollywood’s imagination of Africa. The Stratford East/30 Nigeria House prize-winning play was originally produced for radio by BBC after coming first runner up in BBC’s 2011 African Performance competition. The first stage performance by the African Renaissance Theatre, directed by the playwright Africa Ukoh, premiered on 16 November at the Jos Alliance Francaise.

The story revolves around a Nigerian actor Victor Chimezie (Promise Ebichi), who is trying to break into Hollywood. When his Nigerian agent Sonny Chuks (Williams Obasi) gets him a role as a lieutenant named “Tiger” in a film set in Africa, Sonny thinks he has made Chimezie’s career. Chimezie and the scriptwriter/director Larry Singer (Idris Sagir) hit it off in the beginning, as both turn out to be Wole Soyinka fans: Larry once directed Death and the King’s Horseman and Chimezie once acted the king’s horseman Elesin. In Soyinka’s play, a patronizing colonial district officer Pilkings denounces as savage the tradition of ritual suicide by the oba’s companion after an oba’s death, but in “saving” Elesin he contributes to the death of Elesin’s son Olunde, who takes his father’s place. Chimezie and Larry recite dialogue from the scene where Elesin tells Pilkings, “You have shattered the peace of the world forever. There is no sleep in the world tonight.”

This symbolic tribute to Soyinka’s play resonates throughout 54 Silhouettes: Chimezie, like Elesin, faces great temptation to betray his people for a good life, and the well-meaning Larry, like Pilkings, is so blinded by his prejudices that he undermines (through his writing) the cultures he tries to represent. For a man who directed Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman, Larry knows very little about Nigeria. In fact, he’s a hack. His film script is about an American journalist pursuing a ghost story in a “war-torn” Nigeria, somewhere in the Niger Delta. Larry manages to, as Chimezie points out, include “voodoo priests, a wrestling match with a lion, cannibalism, and half-naked dancing women” all in one film. The section we get to see performed features a warlord with a non-Nigerian name, played by an actor with a butchered “African” accent, who orders a child soldier kill a saintly Irish priest with lines like this: “You are an African. There is beastliness in your blood, and I shall unleash it.” Or “This is Africa. We are already in Hell.”

Chimezie grows more and more disturbed by the part he is being asked to perform and gradually makes enemies of most of his Hollywood contacts. Although Larry is smitten with Chimezie and seems to be open to suggestions, the swaggering cigarette-smoking “big-shot” producer Howard Flynn (played by the playwright and director himself Africa Ukoh) is irritated by Chimezie’s challenges to the script, telling him he knows “Africa is a big country.” He is also irritated that Chimezie does not seem “jubilant” enough at the news that Denzel Washington will star in the film. Flynn seasons his speech with racist slurs, calling Chimezie “Boy” and “Chimpanzee” and asking him if “you require jungle drums in order to express yourself.”

Sparks also fly between Chimezie and Kayode Adetoba (brilliantly played by Charles Etubiebi), the Brighton-born British-Nigerian actor whom everyone calls Tobi. He speaks with a South London accent, mispronounces Chimezie’s name just as Larry and Flynn do, and when he plays a warlord speaks with what internet critics call a “generic African accent.” When Chimezie protests, “That name is not from anywhere in Nigeria” and “That is not a Nigerian accent,” Flynn forces him to speak with the generic African accent too. When Tobi performs the hammy role in Larry’s script, asking Chimezie’s character what he is “insinuating,” Flynn asks “isn’t that too fluent?” Despite Flynn’s racist treatment—at one point saying “Down, Tobi” as if he were a dog—Tobi sides with the producer over his fellow actor from Nigeria. Tobi becomes increasingly incensed at Chimezie’s insistence on responsibility to “his people”—what Tobi calls “romantic idealism.” He tells Chimezie, “I was born in Brighton, I live in London. The closest I’ve ever been to Africa is in a plane flying over it.”

The tension also grows between Chimezie and his agent and friend Sonny Chuks, who has cashed in on a favour Flynn owes him to get Chimezie the role. When the two Nigerians get particularly passionate in their argument, they break into Igbo. Chimezie recites a proverb about the tortoise, “They say he is strong and wise, but when he sits for too long, he is seen as a stone. Who is to blame?” “I have a proverb for you,” Sonny counters, “Money, Make money.”

54 Silhouettes brilliantly skewers Hollywood representations of Africa in movies like Tears of the Sun or Sahara and even slyly weighs in on the casting of non-Nigerian “Hollywood” stars and British-born Nigerians who can’t get the accent right in films set in Nigeria, as in the recent film Half of a Yellow Sun. Complementing the ethical questions at the heart of the play are a multitude of biting one-liners. The satirical dialogue reveals the subtle and not so subtle bigotry of the characters: “I make movies to make money, not to promote foreign relations,” Howard Flynn says. “The budget alone could feed a third world country,” Larry quips. “The only reason I kept this bizarre excuse of a name is because the sheer oddity of it gets me attention and makes me stand out,” Tobi seethes.

Of course, what looms over the play but is never spoken is the word “Nollywood,” and the absence of Nollywood here is perhaps the major hole in the play. While the first act pops with biting humour, in the second act, Chimezie enumerates in long monologues the invisibility of the African voice and his ethical problems with performing in the film. Here the play begins to drag a bit and seems repetitious—a flaw that could perhaps have been solved by looking to the new possibilities open to actors in Africa. The choice is not between suffering in anonymity, as Sonny puts it, or acting in a compromising Hollywood film. In a BBC interview with Ethiopian-American filmmaker Nnegest Likké about Africans in Hollywood, she emphasized the need to build an alternative African tradition, as if this was something that should be built within Hollywood. But while there is certainly a need to improve the chances of Africans and African-Americans in Hollywood, there is also a thriving alternate film tradition on the ground in Africa, from Accra to Lagos to Nairobi, which could be enriched by the passions and skills of actors like Chimezie.

Despite the perhaps false dichotomy presented here, the acting in the premiere stage performance of 54 Silhouettes was brilliant. I listened to the BBC radio performance online and, with a few exceptions, I thought that the character interpretation in the live performance was better, perhaps because the playwright Africa Ukoh was directing this production. The actor Idris Sagir who plays Larry Singer butchers his Hollywood character’s American (?) accent with a mixture of an American southern accent and some odd unplaceable accent full of “r’s.” But since so much of the politics of the play was about bad African accents by non-African performers, the (perhaps intentionally?) bad accent felt like poetic justice to me. The bad American accent like the caricatured Hollywood icons, and the over-the-top racism were all subversive gestures that mock and undermine Hollywood’s dominance, and the character of Chimezie becomes the ultimate deconstructor.

“I’m not really in the mood to do any raping today,” says Chimezie, effectively committing professional suicide. And in this moment, his resolve seems more like a satirical version of Elesin’s son Olunde in Death and the King’s Horseman, who killed himself so that tradition could live. What follows in my imagination is a “Part 2,” where Chimezie resurrects in Nollywood, moving beyond anxieties about Hollywood to tell stories his own way.

The play will be performed at the French Institut in Wuse 2, Abuja on December 5-6, and will be back in Jos on 7 December at a venue yet to be confirmed. Go see it.

Published in the Weekly Trust by Carmen McCain under her column: My Thoughts Exactly.