This Theatre Business

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To coin a phrase, “True artists don’t cry”, is the basis of my argument in what I am about to say in this article. I am talking about the more-than-welcome critique expressed in two separate reviews published last week on my play, The Bigamist, in Art/Life by two intelligent ladies, whom I greatly respect. To them, welcome to the world of art critique and may you continue with your valuable work, be it on my or any other worthy playwright’s work. Their opinions on the play have been printed verbatim. I mention this because other artists, some envious, have in the past accused me of tampering with criticism expressed against myself or promoting myself and many other silly accusations as a reporter on this segment. In fact, I arranged with and encouraged both reviewers to write their views on my play for the simple reason to learn objectively what was bad and what was good about the work, which I still consider as a work in progress as with all my other previous stage works. For the uninformed, writing plays is an ongoing creative process. A play such as King of the Dump took eight years of experimental writing and performances before I was finally satisfied with the written and performance script. It took another eight years before I was confident enough to have it published. Maybe this was the reason why the work was so well received and recorded for broadcasting to more than 100 million African radio listeners by the BBC in 1996 and subsequently won the drama radio category in the same year at the New York Radio Festivals. The moral in all of this is that once a writer – in this case a playwright – sets his/her mind to a creative work, he/she sticks with it through thick and thin. After all, it is your creation and will remain that forever. Back to the reviews. I have no problem with the critique expressed about the play. I welcome critique of my work; it helps to improve my writing and general outlook of the world around me. In addition, I think the more-than-300 audience members at both shows really enjoyed what they were witnessing on stage those two nights. But what the reviewers and the audiences did not know – and still don’t know – is the hard work that goes into such a production with predominantly new and raw amateur actors. As director and playwright, one basically has to tell and show the newcomers everything from pronunciation to character interpretation, and the whole boxing dice. And for that, one needs time and patience – a lot of it. Regarding the more established and experienced actors, oh my word, they really are a breed on their own. Their attitudes even after some of them have been in the performing arts sector for more than two decades, they are still over-confident, conceited, hard dialogue learners and sometimes blatantly childish. When are these people ever going to learn to behave like true theatre professionals at all times without trying to perpetually blow their own trumpets to impress others? They either perpetually have problems with the script, challenge the authority and creative prowess of the director, usually know better than anyone else in the cast, negatively influence the newcomers looking for guidance, or they come drunk to rehearsals despite signing formal legal agreements. Is this the reason why quite a number of so-called experienced actors seldom get acting opportunities? They get stigmatized – by themselves – and then blame the whole world for their silly, small-mindedness and irresponsible actions. How can anybody in his right mind accept such negative behavioral indiscretions from adults? Really, these culprits are doing a lot of harm to the acting fraternity in this country, as I have yet again experienced with this play. And that is not all. I also experienced a lot of sheer professional incompetence along the way during this production from quarters I really didn’t expect. I once again became painfully aware of the old-age African ill – the wrong people still being appointed in the right positions. For the reviewer’s and audience’s information, there was a real threat that the second show of The Bigamist would have been cancelled an hour before starting time because, in my view, the manager of the National Theatre was to my mind deliberately ill-informed. But that by the way. Everyone enjoyed the performances despite all these little mishaps. It comes with the territory. And for those who missed the show, it will be performed again some time in June. Check the press for the venue, admission fees and times of performances. Until next time…..