Ude, Chiedozie Orji.
Department of English, UNILAG
Analysis on Matiiku
It is no news that trying to analyse a live performance is a tricky job. This trickiness may be as a result of different factors such as place and time— or more impressive, the complex nature of literature. Notwithstanding this difficulty, this paper will make an attempt to critically analyse the stage play entitled Matiiku. This essay will succinctly summarise the play and its subject matter, making use of factors such as the stage management and the gestures (which some may refer to as body language) of the actors to defend the choice of subject matter. The attention that will be paid to the factors stated above stems from the technical nature of the dialogue — that is, it was, to a very large extent, exclusively performed in the Yoruba language. However, the focus on the gestures and stage management does not in any way downplay the usefulness of the dialogue in this analysis because its importance in making the play fit its setting, and also, its subject matter cannot be overlooked. Also, it is important to note that this essay will include foreign references — that is, events or even books outside the narrative — which will be used support the arguments expressed in this paper. All these will be combined to comprehensively analyse this play.
This segment of the essay will comment on the playwright and the setting of the play. Not much is known about the playwright; hence, we move on to the setting of the play. The play is set during the colonial era, and this is reinforced through the manner in which the stage was set, and the numerous festivities which took place — the market scene; the baby/ritual scene; and the court dispute between the colonial district officer and the people. The latter is unarguably the strongest supporter of the claim that the play is set during the colonial era because it not only captures the communication problems that plagued the colonial masters due to their inability to grasp the local languages employed by their subjects, but also captures the presence of the white man (The district officer); hence, justifying the time setting— that is, the colonial period. The place setting of the play is Lagos. The introduction of three characters at the beginning of the play who represent the three white-cap chiefs of Lagos is testament to this fact. They, unequivocally, strengthen the play’s genre — that is, a historical play.
The subject matter of the play revolves around a man, who was predestined to be king, right from birth. This information was exposed by the narrator, before the start of the play. Hence, one can say that the plot of the play is based on the child, whom the oracle chooses as king. As expected, he becomes the king of Lagos once he attains adulthood; although, the colonial government later wrestled power from him. It is important to state that the fulfillment of the prophecy on the life of the king is a common motif in Yoruba themed plays— that is, the oracle can never be wrong— such as Ola Rotimi’s The Gods are Not to Blame, where the pronouncements of the oracle on the main character comes to pass. Therefore, one can be justified to state that there is a theme of fate (inevitable destiny) in the play. Another thing that is worthwhile to discuss is how the scenes in the play are linked by an interlude of music and dance. These performances (music and dance) may be regarded as entertaining because of the choreographic dance steps employed by the dancers. Being a traditional play, these songs should have deeper meanings, but that is not the focus of this essay. So, this analysis will rate the musical interlude from the standpoint of pleasure and entertainment.
One may describe the stage management as almost impeccable due to the perfect way the stage was set to represent the setting, and also, their flawless deployment of the lighting technique. To me, it is this lighting technique that makes the play stand out. The lights came up when and where necessary, not a second too early or late. Unarguably, the lighting technique was most effective when it was employed to show time — that is, day and night. This topnotch use of this technique is also brought to the fore when the lights were dimmed during the ritual scene. The solemnity and sacredness of the rituals were well captured by the eerily spooky umbrella of semi-darkness. This was enough to make the watcher understand the importance of these rituals. Another important thing I noticed due to the arrangement of the stage is the market scene. The market scene is crucial in traditional plays. The market is known as a place where rumours and stories thrive. Little wonder the birth of the would be king is announced in the market setting. The market scene is also ideal for announcement of the king’s birth because it reinforces Soyinka’s principle in Death and the King’s Horseman of the market place being a strategic location for the meeting of the three realities in Yoruba mythology — that is, the world of the unborn; the world of the living; and the world of the dead. It is important to note that the market place also serves as a link between these realities. Hence, this well believed myth strengthens the writer’s use of the market scene to announce a transition — that is, from the world of the unborn to the world of the living. The stage management was described as almost impeccable at the beginning of the paragraph because it had slight flaws. One of such flaws is the bad sound systems used in the play. Aside this, one can be justified to give the stage management crew an excellent score for a job well done.
Also, the gestures of the actors also enable non speakers of the Yoruba language to have an insight on some of the happenings in the play. The slow pace, with which those who are to make prophecies on the child move, gives insight to the audience that these men must be truly special and of high importance in the society. The greatness which is proclaimed on the baby is evident when the priests and other spectators bow to the child. However, the child’s mother refuses to bow to her child; hence, bringing into play the African belief that expects a child to prostrate himself to his parents, and not the other way round.
In conclusion, if I were asked to give my personal opinion on the play, I would rate it as a largely successful performance. The topnotch techniques employed by the stage management crew played a huge role in this. As a member of the audience who could not fully grasp the dialogues, I was entertained by the dance interlude. Hence, I can boldly describe the play as a successful one. In conclusion, this essay has made an attempt to analyse the production of the play Matiiku.
Ola Rotimi’s The Gods are Not to Blame.
Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman.
Kagaa village in Ol Kalou, Nyandarua County is in shock after a Class Eight pupil was defiled by a man who allegedly dug a hole into the room she was sleeping in last night.
The girl has since been admitted to hospital in critical condition.
Nyandarua county commissioner Boaz Cherutich who confirmed the incident said that girl’s mother woke up from her bedroom after she heard a commotion from the girl’s bedroom.
It was then that she found a man who immediately fled from the room.
“This is a very bizarre incident as the man had dug a tunnel to access the room late into the night. It is the mother who heard the commotion and woke up only to find a man in the room” he said.
He noted that the mother alerted other neighbors who helped take the girl to the hospital.
“She had blood oozing from her private parts and the doctors have assured as that she is now stable” noted the county commissioner.
Meanwhile, he said that police have launched a man hunt for the man who is known to residents.
“We have information linking a man who is known in the village to the incident. He is a known drug addict and might be the one who defiled the girl” he said.
Written by James Munyeki
RIGHT UNDER YOUR STUPID NOSES
Detective Sergeant Forbes made a gesture of exasperated frustration with his big hands.
“I tell you, Mr. Carter, Donovan or Greene or I have had Louie under our eye every minute of the day since you first put us on the case,” he protested to the district attorney; “and at night one or the other of us has camped outside the door of his hotel room and peeked through the keyhole. If he’d contacted Landis, we’d have seen them.”
“That’s right, Mr. Carter,” Detective Donovan affirmed earnestly. “That guy hasn’t even been to the men’s room without one of us tag-gin’ along; he just couldn’t have met Landis without us knowin’.”
“He just couldn’t have, but he just has,” District Attorney Jeff Carter amended with deadly calm. “Or maybe you two think he pulls those phony tens and twenties out of his hat, the way a magician does rabbits. Louie and Landis are meeting somewhere, and meeting regularly.”
His voice rose to a sudden roar. “What’s more, they’re doing it right under your stupid noses. Now get back on the job, and this time try tailing Louie with your eyes open; you can tell Greene the same goes for him.”
The two detectives muttered hasty “Yes, sirs,” and departed from the district attorney’s office with an air of injured dignity which implied that they considered themselves unjustly impugned.
When the office door had closed behind them, Jeff spoke to his younger brother Stephen, who had been slouched sideways with his feet dangling over the arm of the visitor’s chair while he waited for the district attorney to be ready to go out to lunch. “I’ve never known Greene or Donovan —let alone Forbes—to fall down on a simple assignment of this kind before,” he remarked; “yet the facts prove they’ve slipped somewhere. But I’m hanged if I can figure out where.”
Stephen pivoted about on the end of his spine until his feet came to rest upon the floor in front of him. “Just who are these chaps, Louie and Landis, Jeff?” he asked.
“Counterfeiters,” the district attorney answered. “Lonesome Louie Madden pushes the stuff— gets it into circulation—and isn’t especially important. But Big Ben Landis is the brains of the gang; that’s why I want to use Louie to lead us to him. Naturally, the Federal men are working on the case, too; but they’re leaving this particular angle of it for my office to handle, and I’d like to show them we can make good. Only for some reason that’s a complete mystery to me, the best men on my staff seem unable to follow a trail that must be as broad as the back end of a Mack truck.”
“Maybe Landis is passing the money along to Louie through some other member of the gang,” Stephen suggested.
Jeff shook his head. “Landis doesn’t operate that way,” he replied. “He claims that the middle man is the weakest point in a counterfeiting ring—which is pretty much the truth—so he doesn’t use one. He manufactures the stuff himself, from engraving the plates down to the actual printing, and doles it out to two or three legmen, who pass it on small purchases, and turn what they get in change back to him—less their commissions, of course. He never gives any of them more than a few hundred dollars at a time, for fear they may get ideas about skipping out and going into temporary business for themselves. That’s how I know he must be contacting Louie practically every other day or so. The thing that’s got me beat is, how does he do it?”
“Could be he’s leaving the stuff somewhere for Louie to pick up,” Stephen offered. “Say a box in the railroad station, for instance.”
“I’m afraid that’s out, too,” the district attorney said. “I’ve got the daily reports hare from Forbes, Donovan, and Greene ever since they’ve been on the case.” he gestured toward a manila folder of papers on the desk in front of biro, “and not one of them so much as mentions Louie’s having gone anywhere near a railroad station or any other place where he could pick up a package that might contain two or three hundred dollars in phony tens and twenties. All he does when he goes out is stroll about the center of town for an hour or so and make a few small purchases with his phony money. I can’t let it go on much longer; yet if I pick him up now, I’ll lose the only chance I may get to catch Landis.”
Maybe Landis is wearing a disguise when they meet.”
Jeff smiled briefly, also ironically. “It would be easier to disguise a hippopotamus than Big Ben Landis,” be observed. “The man must ‘weigh over three hundred pounds. But let’s forget about him while we have lunch.” He reached for his own hat on the clothes tree in the corner, then tossed Stephen his. “I don’t want my appetite spoiled.”
Stephen caught the hat with one hand and placed it at a rakish angle upon his dark head. With the other hand, he picked up the folder of reports from his brother’s desk, and took it with him.
A LITTLE, FRIENDLY CALL ON LOUIE
Late in the afternoon, having a free hour or so, Stephen went over the reports carefully in the privacy of his own law office. He learned from them two things that he considered significant. The first was that every morning at exactly ten-thirty, Lonesome Louie left the cheap hotel where he was staying to go for a walk, during which he merely strolled aimlessly about for an hour or so, then returned to the hotel; the second was that he repeated this procedure every afternoon at exactly one-thirty. Stephen smiled with satisfaction at the reports. They had told him precisely what he wanted to know.
That evening during dinner, he brought up the subject of Lonesome Louie and Big Ben Landis. “What would you say, Jeff,” he began, “to my going along with Sergeant Forbes tomorrow morning when he goes on duty?”
The district attorney looked up suspiciously from his plate. “What for?” he demanded.
“I think I know how we can make Lonesome Louie lead us to Big Ben Landis.”
Jeff snorted skeptically. “This isn’t a problem in deduction, Steve,” he pointed out. “It’s a matter of routine tailing that doesn’t call for any fancy mental gymnastics, but just for ordinary police training and practice; which Forbes has had, and you haven’t. If he hasn’t been able to spot the way Louie makes contact with Landis, how can you expect to do it?”
“Still, I don’t guess it’d do any harm if I tried,” Stephen persisted.
Jeff was forced to concede the point.
The following morning Lonesome Louie was temporarily disconcerted upon descending from the unclean flea-bag that was his room, to find two tailers instead of the usual one waiting for him in the lobby of the hotel—especially when he recognized in the smaller of the two the younger brother of the district attorney. But his generally lugubrious countenance relaxed in a confident grin when, as he sallied forth, both Stephen and the big sergeant fell into step behind him in the usual way.
“You see, Mr. Stephen,” Forbes said, discouraged, after they had played a kind of shadow tag with Louie for the better part of an hour, “he doesn’t meet anybody or do anything worth battin’ an eye at. He acts more like a man who’s just out to kill time.”
Stephen smiled in agreement.
“Forbes, how right you are!” he murmured, but he didn’t sound in the least discouraged.
Louie continued to lead them a merry, if somewhat leisurely, chase for another half hour, then he headed back to the hotel.
This time, instead of taking up their former position on the scuffed leather bench in the lobby facing the staircase and the perpetually out-of-order elevator, Stephen waited until the man they were tailing had disappeared from sight up the stairs; then he began to follow.
“We’ll just pay a little, friendly call on Louie,” he remarked to the sergeant. “I’ve a notion this is his time to be receiving company, although I don’t guess he’ll be expecting us.”
When they unceremoniously flung open the door to Louie’s room, the enormous fat man who was there with Louie sprang up with a violence that sent his chair crashing over backwards. His hand made a quick jab toward his hip pocket, but stopped midway when he saw the muzzle of Sergeant Forbe’s police automatic trained upon him.
“Okay, Landis,” the sergeant said with grim satisfaction, “you can reach, but it’s not gonna be for anything you can touch.”
Back in the district attorney’s office an hour or so later, Stephen lolled in the visitor’s chair and cocked one leg indolently over its arm. “It was all perfectly simple, Jeff,” he drawled. “I spotted it as soon as I read those reports, and noticed that Louie went for a walk every day at exactly the same time in the morning, and again in the afternoon. After he’d left the hotel —with Forbes or Donovan or Greene, as the case might be, following—Landis simply walked in and waited in his room for him to come back, when he gave Louie a fresh supply of the counterfeit money and collected his share of the real money Louie had got in change when he passed the phony bills. Then, when Louie went out for his afternoon walk, Landis left again. It was all perfectly safe and, as I said before, perfectly simple; so simple that I’d have spotted it even without reading the reports.”
“That,” Jeff stated flatly; “I don’t believe.”
Stephen smiled with the bland ingenuousness that always set his older brother’s teeth on edge. “But it’s true, Jeff,” he protested. “If Louie wasn’t meeting Landis—and it was plain that he wasn’t, or Forbes or one of the other men you had tailing him would have spotted them—then the only other way for them to make contact was for Landis to meet him. You all made the quite natural mistake of expecting Mohammed to go to the mountain, whereas,” his smile became even more ingenuous, “this was one of the rare instances in which the mountain came to Mohammed.”
~ THE END ~