By Damola Awoyokun
The biopic musical is a superb production of acting and playwriting. It is not easy to keep interesting a sequence of scenes in which a single character appears in all the scenes. In 2006, Crown Troupe overcame this problem in their own masterful stage adaptation of Okot P’bitek’s poem, Song of Lawino. They repeatedly froze the main actors at one part of the bare Beckettian stage letting a different set of main actors take over the action in another part of the stage in order to creatively defeat the monotony and boredom of allowing the same personalities to carry on the not-action-driving poem for so long. In the musical, Fela (Sahr Ngaujah) is the narrator of the story of which he is the main actor so he is monotonously bound to be in every scene. To keep his appearance interesting, he takes up multiple charismatic personalities: he is a showman, dancer, saxophonist, spiritual leader, military general, stand-up comedian, husband, civil society activist, prisoner of conscience, torturer, journalist etc. To counterbalance all these manifestation of charisma and gust of energies, the playwrights Jim Lewis and Bill Jones introduce Fela’s mum, first in Fela’s imagination, then in the physical, then in chthonic realm, the Fourth stage. And her presence is marked by awe, calmness, gravity and grace superbly delivered by Melanie Marshall.