What men want … A Be­trayal Of Trust

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - THEATRE - Sto­ries by Omiko Awa

IT is a uni­ver­sal tru­ism that the male-folk across the globe grap­ple with is­sues of busi­ness, politics, fam­ily, mul­ti­ple sex part­ners and cru­cially, how to sus­tain do­min­ion in a space where women have found plat­forms to ex­press their in­nate po­ten­tial and have even be­come bread­win­ners in some homes. Apart from busi­ness chal­lenges, women are trou­bled when their hus­bands, de­spite their wealth and healthy chil­dren, en­gage in in­fi­delity and mul­ti­ple sex re­la­tion­ships in vi­o­la­tion of their mat­ri­mo­nial oaths, es­pe­cially when the wife is putting in her best to see their mar­riage work.

It is this capri­cious at­ti­tude of some men that pushes some women to want to mis­be­have, with some go­ing as far as curs­ing their hus­bands. The usual ex­cuse for hus­bands, who break their wives’ hearts by cheat­ing on them, is to ei­ther blame monogamy for their be­hav­iour or con­clude that ‘one wo­man is never enough for an aver­age man.’

This is­sue of fi­delity in mar­riages came to the fore in One­gang Theatre’s pre­sen­ta­tion of What­men­want at the Peace Gar­den Hall, Okoko, La­gos. Writ­ten by Ade­larin Awot­edu, the play was di­rected by Ade­wale John­son. In show­cas­ing mul­ti­ple themes like mar­i­tal in­fi­delity, fam­ily squab­bles, randy hus­band and oth­ers, What­men­want steps up the gen­der de­bate. It opens with Morenikeji (Adaku Nnadi) rem­i­nisc­ing about her past, when her hus­band, Kunle and her, used to be con­tented with them­selves, while the chil­dren were away at school. But her dis­po­si­tion sud­denly changes. She re­calls how Kunle (Taiye Olulu) lately de­scribed her, as passé and so stays away from home and now keeps late nights.

She tries to man­age the sit­u­a­tion; their chil­dren are do­ing well in schools abroad. That is when Morenikeji gets the shock of her life, when Su­san (Ce­cilia Ogoro) walks in to say she is Kunle’s new wife. Though en­raged, Morenikeji ini­tially takes the mat­ter lightly, but Su­san would not let her be. Grad­u­ally, con­flict en­sues be­tween Morenikeji and Su­san.

Be­liev­ing she knows how to sat­isfy Kunle’s sex­ual de­sires, Su­san the sassy lady be­gins to taunt the first wife, who never fails to tongue-lash her too for mar­ry­ing a man old enough to be her father.

In­tim­i­dated by Su­san’s dress sense, Morenikeji puts up a fight to dress nicely to win back her hus­band’s love. She, how­ever, gives up the fight when she re­alises she is no match for Su­san, when it comes to such games. She takes so­lace in the ad­mon­ish­ing adage: ‘the cane that chased away the first wife is be­ing re­served for the se­cond wife!’ The two bel­liger­ent women later come to an ac­cord, when they dis­cover that their hus­band is plan­ning to take a third wife; they then plot to stop him. While Morenikeji han­dles the mat­ter more ma­turely, Su­san gets hot, threat­ens to meet their hus­band’s se­cret lover and tear her into pieces.

Hell, how­ever, is let loose when Su­san fi­nally meets Sidi, the 60-year old wo­man Kunle is go­ing out with. Su­san at­tacks Sidi, but she is no match for Sidi, who gives her the beaten of her life. Apart from be­ing older than the first wife, Sidi runs a lo­cal restau­rant where Kunle reg­u­larly eats. She is also known for hav­ing her seven chil­dren to dif­fer­ent men. Su­san won­ders what on earth could have at­tracted Kunle to such an ir­re­spon­si­ble old wo­man with abom­inable sex­ual his­tory!

Sim­ple and short, the 45-minute play has no male cast. In fact, the randy Kunle is cast as an ‘ab­sen­tee hus­band.’ What­men­want is a rhetoric pose with mul­ti­fac­eted re­sponses. The cast shows re­mark­able sense of per­fect in­ter­pre­ta­tion of their roles. Also, the play­wright al­lows the char­ac­ters de­velop or­gan­i­cally as they rise from the sim­ple and reach a crescendo, where Su­san is beaten blue-black and she is made to learn the hard les­son: never to dic­tate to an Africa man the num­ber of wives he should marry! This sys­tem­atic ap­proach of un­veil­ing the iden­tity of the two wives comes in parts: firstly, Su­san is in con­trol in the early few scenes, where she bul­lies the first wife. The se­cond and con­clud­ing part sees Morenikeji dic­tat­ing the pace. This time, she does not take her pound of flesh on Su­san, but con­soles and wel­comes her to her home. She makes her re­alise that the only way to win is to sum­mit, to ac­cept her fate as the se­cond wife, with more women on the way.

But the play goes against the grain of fem­i­nist rhetoric, as they would find fault with its the­matic thrust: what gives the man the guts to marry more wives at the ex­pense of the wo­man?

The play de­picts the African wo­man, as ac­com­mo­dat­ing, tol­er­ant and a home­maker. It also projects the African man, as a po­lyg­a­mist, who as­serts his au­thor­ity over his wives with­out mind­ing the con­se­quences of his ac­tions.

How­ever, the core les­son is that women should for­tify their hearts against be­trayal be­cause no wo­man is im­mune to men’s sweet talk and other an­tics they em­ploy to get the wo­man they want. In bring­ing out the key lessons, the di­rec­tor used cool and street mu­sic that did not only touch the emo­tional core of the au­di­ence, as it high­lights the pains and sor­row as­so­ci­ated with be­trayal.

A scene from Men

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