Recently, I had the pleasure of collaborating with a long standing friend and fine colleague of mine, Andile Sotiya, the choreographer and dance tutor, in devising and running workshop auditions for an ensemble of young dancer-singers, to perform in a new scratch performance run of a new play set in Africa.
Iyalode of Eti – the play in question, is a reimagining of Webster’s Jacobean classic The Duchess of Malfi, set in pre-colonial Yoruba land, which is part of modern Nigeria. The play is currently in a research and development phase, staged by Utopia Theatre Company. At the end of a week of creative exploration and rehearsal, there will be two scratch performances of excerpts from the play, at Rich Mix and The Arcola Theatre, both in London, on the 12th and 13th of September, respectively.
African period dramas have been largely absent from the London (and by extension, UK) stages for a considerable amount of time, mainly due to the diminished energy emanating from companies such as Collective Artistes, Badejo Arts and others. Most UK African based theatre productions in recent times have tended to focus on the colonial and post colonial eras. It is therefore, exciting to be able to engage creatively with a new play that is addressing themes relevant to the values of our forbears.
In my role as the composer and music director for this project, I was not sure that there would be many emerging young performers with the flair and wherewithal to handle the demands of this type of work with oomph and poise. I am pleased to report that I was thrilled by the talents of the young performers that attended the workshop auditions at Rich Mix and I sense that the rest of the creative team felt the same as I did.
I would like to thank Corrine Bougaard and Richard Wilson of Union Dance as well as Suzann McLean Robinson of Young and Talented, for helping to attract such high quality performers to the workshop auditions.
The scratch performances, due to happen at Rich Mix (12th September) and Arcola Theatre (13th September), are showing signs of excellent promise. Utopia Theatre is about to bring energy, magic and luminous electricity back to African theatre on London stages.
Musical Director Juwon Ogungbe:
Juwon Ogungbe is an inspiring and well respected musician, singer, composer and band leader from London, of Nigerian heritage.
Placing African music at the heart of his work, Juwon also incorporates pop, jazz and classical music into his expressive range.
Juwon’s concert and music theatre compositions consistently attract interest from theatre and dance practitioners. Commissions include music for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Union Dance and the Southbank Centre amongst many others. Life Force Music – Juwon’s debut album, released to wide acclaim in 2012 is available via www.juwonogungbe.com.