Monday, May 25, 2009

As the Collusus turns 75

Theatre@Terra presents

The 3rd Annual Season of Wole Soyinka

Every Sunday in June and July.


The Lion and The Jewel- June 7 & June 14

Death and The King's Horsemen- June 21 & June 28

Madmen and Specialists - July 5 & July 12

Kongi's Harvest - July 19 & 26

Produced by Wole Oguntokun

Every Sunday in June & July at Terra Kulture, Tiamiyu Savage St, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Time- 3pm & 6pm

Tickets- N2000

Exclusive to Theatre@Terra.

The Girl Whisperer

as published by the Sunday Guardian

of May 24

Love Made Easy

The Whisperer has been writing these articles for more than two years now, close to twenty-six months of telling and learning how it is. Some of the things written have been from experience, the Whisperer’s and others; some from intuition and a number from “worst case scenarios” or what he likes to call, the “what ifs?”

The columns have brought new friends into his life (and probably new enemies). Some men have taken umbrage at the Whisperer’s advice to females accusing him of “teaching them to be wayward”. Some women have just been miffed at the very idea of a man thinking he knows so much. For those in the latter category, believe the Whisperer, he does know.

The Whisperer, on this journey, has met females who liked him for a myriad of reasons, the feeling not always being reciprocated, and others in whom the feeling was mutual, friends he wishes to keep for always. But life being what it is, you have to make do with the cards you’re dealt and play with it as if you held four aces. (In that last statement, might lie the secret to true happiness).

Many good songs have philosophies. It is rare for a song that has no sound reasoning in its lyrics to stay on as a perennial, ever-green tune, playable from generation to generation. Why do Nat King Cole songs still have meaning after all these decades? Because they are beautiful, well thought out, well arranged songs for posterity. Your children on a day they are feeling bored, come across your collection, play a song and sit mesmerized, unbelieving that the song was done decades before they were a glint in their parents’ eyes. Nat King Cole did that to me as a child, as did Harry Belafonte. Great songs, great people, that showed another world I had no idea existed.

As I ponder on life and love in the early hours of this morning, I remember the song by the group known as ‘Native’. The title of their song was simple- “Love ain’t no holiday”. They sang, as did half the world with them, “you’re my shadow’s own reflection, you’re what gets me through the day, you’re my source of inspiration, everything I have to say... and if that’s not enough, then there’s nothing left to say, but it’s sure gonna be rough, cos love ain’t no holiday”. I agree in totality with the words of this song. We fall in love, expecting it will work itself out. It rarely does. You meet someone who plays the tune of your heart, with whom you can be silent and be at peace with the world; who, well, makes you happy. And isn’t that what life is really about, to be as happy as often as you can be? We will not at this point have a conversation with the crew always ready to pick out and lecture on the differences between happiness and joy. The Whisperer is declaring that the reason we do the things we do, is to be in a state of happiness as often as we can be. The reason you eat chocolates; go out for dinner with friends; go the movies, sit in darkened halls and enter the world of make-believe; always call up certain people you know are always there for you; take long walks across quiet fields with someone special; put certain songs on replay in your car... All these things are done to continue and to improve our states of happiness. So you meet this wonderful person and you fall in love and for a period in time, everything is perfect. Everything. The sun warms you on the face in the mornings, the cool breezes of the night are perfect for your outings or the times you choose to stay in. And then from nowhere, the resistance comes. Your friends are in opposition; your parents don’t approve, your religion won’t approve, your economic backgrounds are totally different... human beings have a million things that war against them and their happiness.

How do you get out of a bind like this? Only children should be surprised when they meet with resistance on life’s journey. Isn’t it a law that “for every action, there is an opposite reaction”? The very fact that you’ve found happiness means that in some way you can expect some situation will try to take it from you. So the group called “Native” sang, “love ain’t no holiday”. Sometimes, we ourselves are the obstructions to our own sunshine. Like many people who have death wishes, we chip away at the beauty we have found, because maybe deep down in our hearts, we think we’re not really meant to be that happy. There is no situation on the face of the earth that is a new one. People come and they go, they meet someone, fall in love, find happiness. Sometimes they allow it to be taken from them, sometimes, they themselves smash up their happiness for obscure reasons they might never be able to figure.

The Whisperer, like many, many others, has felt what happiness can be like. For those who are worried about the situations they are in, he advises that they hold onto love and to what feels true to them. It is important though, that when the ship you and your true love sail on is torpedoed, and the lifeboat you are on, has capsized and all you have left as you both swim for survival, are each other’s hands to hold on is important that the person you are with, is someone you trust and someone who believes in you completely. The person you may enter the water with is one who will not let go off your hand when the waves come to test your resolve. On a holiday a short while ago, I saw a small marker which was a monument to that great ship, ‘The Titanic’. I stood quietly for a short while and remembered that great, great love story and the young man who froze to death in the sea so his true love could remain on the life-boat. May we all be guided to those who would give up all they have for us. May they never have cause to do so.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Girl Whisperer

as published by the Sunday Guardian

of May 17

Whispering for Dummies

After receiving plenty of mail in that regard, the Whisperer realises how difficult it must be for some men to communicate with females they want to be friends with as well as potential partners. As suitors, they are clumsy, they say things that make onlookers cringe, and they ignore the cardinal rule: “when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”. I stood in the company of a lady many would regard as a diva in the entertainment “industry”, whatever that word means. She is unmarried but doesn’t seem to be dying from this condition many people ordinarily consider an ailment. As we stood talking, a male acquaintance sidled up to her and commended her for great work done. No problem so far. Then he said,” I guess to do this kind of work; it’s convenient to remain single”. Foot in the mouth. And like must amateurs, even though he knew he’d said something not quite right, he couldn’t keep quiet. He kept digging and floundering until he was way in over his head. I could see him frantically attempting to stop but his mouth betrayed him. The Whisperer in me looked at him and told him to shut up. It was a mercy killing, because I had seen the smouldering in my friend being addressed and knew there would have been an outburst of sorts soon if I hadn’t intervened.

This therefore is an open instruction book to all men who might want to do some amateur whispering, and desperately need to be seen by all and sundry as suave and smooth. It’s in line with all the books that say “computers for dummies” and “astronomy for dummies”. Whispering itself, being an exact science, the ability to say what is right at the appropriate time and when to shut your mouth is as technical as the engine of a brand new car.

The first lesson is absolutely free of charge and is meant to help the lines of communication. I’ll say something odd here to the men. Check to see that your male friends like hearing you talk. If you can’t interest your beer buddies and they groan in despair when they hear you attempting to join a conversation, chances are it’ll be an uphill task trying to get a woman to listen to you for more than a couple of minutes. If you’re unnecessarily loud, are given to yelling when you are with the ‘boys’, temper it down for the ladies. No female wants you shouting at her because you’re trying to be warm and outgoing.

Respect the personal space. There is an invisible circle around every human that must not be crossed except you are invited into it. That space is the one that might make a difference in people being uneasy about you or being absolutely free. If you lean close to whisper into the ears of a female you’ve set your eyes on, be careful how you do it. Unwanted lips touching the ear, standing so close you are breathing in each other’s carbon monoxide is a no-no. Keep your distance and err on the side of caution. If she likes you enough, one day she’ll stand so close, you’ll see the light, just like a lamp coming on in a dark room. Don’t ask me how you’ll know, just believe that you will.

Less is more. It’s as simple as I just wrote it. The attention you give her, the conversations you make.... Be careful that you are seen as a reservoir of knowledge and not as a fountain of information. There is no female that likes a clinging man. For some men, the penny just dropped at that last line. If you are overly-effusive with your love and affection, it will not be appreciated. I shall ignore the females protesting at the point I just made now. If you pour it on, always sounding like an Indian lover in a bollywood flick, the full impact of your personality will be lost on her. It’s the same way people generally do not appreciate free things; whether it be free tickets to the theatre or freebies of any sort. They think there must be some defect in the design so they look down on it. Turn it down a bit, learn to relax. Always remember, what will be yours will be yours. A female saying no to you is no indictment of your character or person. If she asks you to be more open, more loving, tune the dial to match what she wants, but be careful about being overly effusive. Women do not like gushing men no matter what they say to the contrary.

There will always be someone better-looking than you. Don’t go around trying to match up with the brawny fellow on the front cover of that magazine, just be yourself in every way you can. If there is a possibility you can firm up your body, why not? But if you do not have the time or inclination, ensure that something else has muscles; your personality, your kindness, your humour, your bank account...something has to have muscles. Women are far more practical than they are given credit for. If you’ve met a girl that has a roving eye and speculatively inspects every man she meets, ditch her. The regular female however, will take you as you are if you can find her emotional dashboard. Once you have the emotions, you have the woman.

Even though females appear to be the same all over the world, there are slight variations from area to area, depending on environmental backgrounds, culture, DNA and up-bringing. A ‘modern’ woman might have a problem ironing your shirt because she feels it makes her subservient to you , but if you show it is something you would do for her without thought, it balances her perspective.

Learn to delay gratification. There are too many men who would try to jump the bones of any female on the first night they meet them. No woman wants to be treated like meat. And believe me; they know what’s on your mind when you start breathing heavily and getting cross-eyed. Free your mind; enjoy her person, the smiles she brings so easily to your face. In many ways, relationships do not differ from the way they were when we were fifteen years old apart from the heavy emphasis on physical intimacy, the older we get. Find the joys and sheer pleasure you had in relationships when you were a teen.

And for those who would say, “I’m not a child anymore”, hear the Whisperer. When you lose your childhood, you’ve lost everything.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Girl Whisperer

as published in the Sunday Guardian

of May 10, 2009

Que Sera Sera

Take a moment with me to hum that old, familiar tune, ‘Que Sera Sera’, which has delighted families for countless generations. The Whisperer learnt it from his mother and older sisters around candle-lit tables in the early days. Call to mind the second stanza, “When I grew up and fell in love, I asked my sweetheart ‘what lies ahead? Will there be rainbows day after day?’ Here’s what my sweetheart said- ‘Que Sera Sera, whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see, Que Sera Sera’ “

From childhood friendships and puppy love, the Whisperer has wondered about the difficulty in predicting the outcome of relationships. As a seventeen year old, I could have sworn that I had found the perfect girl. She would work through my school with confidence as all eyes would follow her; she had eyes with an oriental slant, said she loved me and made me feel like a King, right up until the time she left me for an undergraduate. I found out the hard way that except you’re like the writer, Alexander Pope, who peaked very early, teenagers do not often end up in long-term situations with their ‘true-loves’. We met as adults and I couldn’t believe how little I felt. That wasn’t the real thing.

The song, ‘Que Sera Sera’ is not for those who have doubts about their relationships from the onset. Often, many start relationships knowing they will crash into the abyss before half a year runs out. If you suddenly decide after a month from the kick-off of your relationship that the musk of your partner would be better if masked by a very powerful deodorant, this song is not for you. If you can’t walk at the same pace as your partner, you walk a little in front or a little behind so they don’t realize you’re the beauty walking with the beast, it’s not a Que Sera Sera moment. If you find yourself staring after your partner’s friends, unable to tear your eyes off a particularly scrumptious one, you know you’re in for the short haul. Que Sera Sera is for those who have found true beauty, who have stumbled like Ali Baba, upon that cave which holds magical properties that can change lives forever. Yet they know deep down, that life being what it is, sometimes curve balls will come at the very moments when you are least expecting surprises. So one lover in the song asks the other, ‘will there be rainbows day after day?’

There are relationships people enter knowing they would never exchange it for all the oil in Siberia. You find someone who calls out to your heart even without words. Your eyes speak volumes across rooms even when many others are present. He (or she) knows exactly when you are silent because you hurt, and this person will swallow pride repeatedly, to make up with you so you both do not lose what you have found. The Whisperer has seen and experienced this, as many others have too. There really is true beauty in the world. But one day, life intervenes, the ‘reality’ of the situation hits you in the face, the next work transfer comes in, the next job offer across the Atlantic, the parent who says you are of different religions, the guardian who says you are of varying economic backgrounds, and suddenly, the pot of gold at the bottom of the rainbow is not as attainable as it once was.

There are countless ‘perfect’ relationships broken and scattered across the continents because they couldn’t stand the complications of life, ‘perfect’ couples who ended up in the arms of others for the long run. Now this will open up a new debate. Is there only one perfect mate for you in the two and half billion potential partners that exist on this planet? Won’t there be people as nice if not better than the one you have lost or might lose? That is not the subject of my discourse. My point is that when you find this person, who makes you see the world through new eyes, there is no one else anywhere on the planet at that particular point in your life. The most generous, best-looking, suave people will not do it for you at that point because you have found that one who helps make time stand still as you two move alone through the earth, at peace with the world, loving each other, looking, savouring, basking in the sun and being in harmony with the universe.

There are moments when we wish the world would remain still, that we are forced to move, to continue with life as we know it. Still, there are ways one can beat life at its own game. If you follow your heart (and be sure it is your heart you follow, not some hazy concept you have of love) you can build a new reality. But there is no one who has fought a duel with life that has not paid a price. Not one person. The dancer or actor, on any continent who decides there is only one profession for him must be prepared to starve for a while, that ‘while’ being relative. It may last for a few weeks or many years. However, if he decides he will go for it at any cost, he must ready himself for the worst life can throw at him and have faith it will all turn out right. There are many bankers who have not found fulfilment at work and many actors who have.

It is the same with affairs of the heart. If you find THE relationship, you must be prepared to look life full in the face and stare life down (and that is a very, very hard thing to do). You must be prepared to create your own future so you have space for this one thing. If the circumstances all just fall in place for you, you are indeed a blessed person; if they don’t, help the situation. “Not only strike while the iron is hot, you must make it hot by striking”.

If one is not prepared to do this, then you must be ready to sing, “Whatever will be, will be”. The wind does not blow for those who have no destination to sail to. Amor Vincit Omar, the Latin maxim says. Love conquers all.

The Girl Whisperer

as published in

the Sunday Guardian of April 5, 2009


The time is 4am and it is dark outside in the Whisperer’s world. The curtains are drawn up to catch draughts of cool air and it is the hour to do some reminiscing, to go back in time and place memories of the past against the facts of the present and the possibilities of the future. A close friend asked me a short while back if I wasn’t worried about disclosing personal details of myself in the newspapers. She said I had courage in writing the way I do. The way it used to be, it appeared as if I never got personal, but the Whisperer has had too many adventures not to share some. I sometimes think my life has been the stuff adventure stories are made of, like pages torn out of a Mark Twain story, and it has been that way since the early years of childhood. In my first form at secondary school, my English teacher gave me a name, “Huckleberry Finn”. I think it had to do with my dusty feet and general outlook on life. I was only ten.

At that age, I became great friends with many great people even though we were all runt-sized at the time- Toyin Zollner, Harry Moradeyo, Akin Olusanya, Kelechi Ejiogu, Obioha Otuokere, Joseph Ikunna, Seyi Eniayewu; and then into the A-Level days where I met Alfred Adebare, Segun Ewuoso, Sola Adebiyi, Gbadebo Olanrewaju and many, many others.

In those years, and into adulthood, I lived life as I thought was right. If these disclosures will stop my fellow citizens from making me the Minister of all matters feminine, so be it. I do not intend to leave the earth like the Roman Emperor Nero did, saying “What a great artist dies with me”. By the time I’m finished whispering, you’ll all be aware of the extent of my ‘artistry’, and gained from it in many ways. Some would be sure not to make the mistakes the Whisperer made; others would have had laughter brought into their lives on grey days.

Maybe this whispering is some kind of penance for the mistakes I have made in times gone past, when I could so easily have made the world a better place for those I was with. It might also be for some reading, to understand there is another side to every story and sometimes the truth has three or more sides, depending on perspective. ‘Walk a mile in my shoes; before you accuse, criticise and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes’ was a song my eldest sister, funmi, loved to sing to me, when I was a child.

A few years back, while I was studying for a master’s degree in law at the University of Lagos, I met a young woman, everyone called Bright Eyes. She was an undergraduate in the same faculty and had come to my attention through another young woman I had a special interest in, and through the friends of that ‘special one’.

The group that made me realise there was a new girl worth noticing, was a year ahead of ‘bright eyes’ in the faculty, made up of very good-looking females in their own right but it seemed as if all their waking moments were filled with thoughts of this new arrival and the ‘threat’ they felt she constituted. She was a ‘fresh’ face in the faculty who apparently had no idea that other queens ruled the turf she had decided to call home. It had been a long time since I’d seen an assortment of young females so engrossed with the life of another and it proved a great source for many interesting scenarios. Their waking moments were filled with ‘Bright Eyes did this’ and ‘Bright Eyes wore that’, so the man-yet-to-be Whisperer looked out for Bright Eyes. When I found her, I understood the reason for the agitation. She was stunningly attractive (I do not use this description lightly), usually wore little or no make-up, her hair was always woven without any extensions (very few people are that self-assured) and she moved with an air of total confidence.

Everyone called her ‘Bright Eyes’. Why? It might have been because she had eyes as clear as a baby’s, but whatever the reason was, ‘Bright Eyes’ had come and she was there to stay. She weathered the storm of b*^@~y females, became immensely popular in the faculty and we became good friends. It always amazed me to see how self-controlled she was. It might have had something to do with being Head Prefect of her school before University but Bright Eyes always gave little room for error.

We learnt to accommodate each other’s whims and caprices, had great fun being friends, time flew, and we parted ways but I never forgot her. Apart from being one of the most gorgeous people I ever knew, she had a beautiful heart and one never quite forgets people like that.

The years flew by, roads leading unto other roads but one day the Whisperer’s vocation carried him to a major Nigerian gas company. And there, walking through the door was ‘Bright Eyes’, unchanged through the years. I had stumbled onto her place of work; she, still as self-possessed and beautiful as before; I...well, I had become the Whisperer. Many things ran through my head as we talked. How time flies when we aren’t looking; how it is important to stay in touch with those that matter to you; why we should tell those we care about that we will always be there for them, whether we see tomorrow, or not for another ten years.

I am glad I met Bright Eyes again. The old adage says ‘twenty children cannot be playmates for twenty years’. Maybe. But we can give it a try; we can give it our best shot, we can determine we will not always surrender to what life tells us.

This is a story of friendship, of finding again all those people that once mattered to us, who have since long gone. May your Bright Eyes walk through the door again very soon. May there always be beautiful reunions in all our lives.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Jinta and Laspapi philosophise. South London - April '09

Click here for laspapi's review of The National Theatre of London's performance of Wole Soyinka's "Death and The King's Horseman" directed by Rufus Norris and published in the Next Newspaper of 25 April, 2009

Top Photo- Giles Terera as Olohun Iyo in "...Horseman" (National Theatre London- April '08; Middle Picture- Tony-Award Winner-Katrina Lindsay, Dance Choreographer - Javier De Frutos, laspapi; (Bottom Pic)Nonso Anozie as Elesin Oba in Wole Soyinka's "Death & The King's Horseman" (April 08)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Wole Soyinka's Death and The King's Horseman- Directed by Rufus Norris- April 2009- National Theatre, London