Monday, September 16, 2013

Enter SARO Experience - ThisDay Newspaper

By Okechukwu Uwaezuoke
ThisDay on Sunday, Sept 15, 2013

Call it a musical in the tradition of Broadway. Saro, as the musical is called, was conceived after a Broadway musical based on the life and times of the Nigerian-born Afrobeat icon Fela and was performed before a Lagos audience.

Bolanle Austen-Peters – better known as the amazon behind the Victoria Island-based cultural centre, Terra Kulture – thought it was odd that the production, titled Fela! featured no Nigerian actor or dancer when it was staged at the Eko Hotel and Suites.

“I woke up one day and wrote the story, which I believe is very relevant to our society and our youths,” she recalled. “I looked around me and asked: What is the story of an average Nigerian? What is the story of the average settlers of Lagos?”

Lagos became a melting-pot of non-indigenous people. “Most of us came here, just like many went to America, saluted as the land of freedom; and that is what I decided to explore. If you look around, everybody wants to come to Lagos.

“It shows that there is something about the city. When people come into Lagos, all of a sudden they become Lagosians. And I want a story that reflects music and dance. It is that simple. So, in showcasing our music and dance, I needed to weave a story around the common heritage.”
It was the preview of that story that drew a coterie of distinguished theatre buffs to the Terra Kulture last Tuesday. The gathering included the Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism and Inter-governmental Relations, Disu Holloway, the theatre icon, Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett; the French Consul Fran├žois Sastourne; the actress Joke Silva; the veteran journalist Ben Tomoloju; the former National Troupe of Nigeria’s artistic director, Professor Ahmed Yerima, art collector Omooba Yemisi Shyllon and Ebony TV host and founder, Mo Abudu, among others.

The idea was to solicit their support for this first-of-its-kind effort. As Saro’s executive producer, Mrs Austen-Peters hopes to make the production shared her thoughts with the audience. She concluded her brief opening remarks with the hope “that at some point, we’ll be able to invade the world just like others have invaded us with all sorts.”

Saro tells the story of four young men, who set out to Lagos for adventure to discover themselves. The musical took the audience through snippets of their good and bad experiences in the land of opportunity.  It is a rags-to-riches of sorts. The fortune-seeking quartet are unfazed by the obstacles in the form of the ugly experiences encountered in their quest for limitless opportunities.

The 20-minute-long performance, described by Professor Yerima as “a wonderful piece; wonderful music and acting”, was only a tip of the iceberg.  This was why the Redeemers University theatre professor cautioned the production team against making it “too long”.
But Holloway was excited by what he had seen so far.  “What struck me is the timing and sequencing of the music,” he said. “We should create this in Lagos; we’re too busy running after acquisitions in Lagos. We should have it.”

Ajayi-Lycett thought it was a wonderful piece. “We don’t have enough of theatre in Lagos and Nigeria. This is wonderful; the music is glorious and acting wonderful. We taught the world to dance; we to stress it so that those who stole from us can actually own up to it.”

She, however, expressed her reservations about some of the discomfiting scenes shown in the preview and hoped that there would be a happy ending to the production.
This is obviously a task for the production team, which consists of the musical director Ayo Ajayi, the executive artistic director Makinde Adeniran, the director Gbenga Yusuf, the photo director Kennet Uphopho, the Zmirage founder and technical director, Teju Kareem and the production manager Babs Joseph.

The musical featured both established and emerging actors like Kemi Lala Akindoju, Paul Alumona, Linda Nwanneka, Eferoghene Awusa, William Benson, Okafor Francis Chibuzor, Awele Dekpe, Patrick Diabuah, Adesuwa Etomi and Anthony OffiongEdet.

“My dream is this: to produce the best and the biggest stage production Nigeria has even seen,” Mrs Austen-Peters had vowed in an interview. “If it is going to cost $10m, $20m or more, I don’t know. But it is not going to be less than $1million. Do I have it? No! Will I find it? Yes! That is the attitude.

“Running Terra Kulture has also taught me that if you want to establish a business, you must have a certain level of strength of character. In an industry where it is not easy to come across money and in a situation like ours in Nigeria where you don’t get government funding, we have to internally generate our own funds to be where we are, nine years after. It is not a fluke.  This has built a sense of strength in me coupled with my belief in God. I am not somebody who shies away from big dreams.”

The production will be staged from October 25 to 27 at the Oriental Hotel in Victoria Island, Lagos.

Culled from ThisDay Online - Here 

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