With Strings, National Troupe stages a comeback – NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

Tribune Online – Breaking News in Nigeria Today
The production which heralded the body’s return to active performance preaches unity.
HOW we have missed them in Lagos, the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN). For over five years, the Troupe was inactive because the former Artistic Director, Tar Ukoh, refused to stage any play. Instead of the standard, quality performances the Troupe was renowned for, he reduced it to singing by the roadside in the Federal Capital Territory. Worse still, he controversially sacked all resident artists of the National Troupe and systematically gutted the body.
But the Troupe made a much-anticipated return in December when it staged ‘Strings’, a folk musical drama written and directed by Mike Anyanwu at Terra Kulture Arena, Victoria Island, Lagos. Everything we had missed about the troupe: beautiful costumes, well-choreographed Nigerian dances and good folk music were all present in the creative retelling of Nigeria’s story which urged unity and cooperation.
The Storyteller (Soibifaa Dokubo) leads us into the production, unveiling Nigeria as a symbolic baby and foster child of Frederick and Flora Lugard, who had earlier arrived in Nigeria as Flora Shaw. To the surprise of the diverse inhabitants of the land, they forcefully unite them as one under the British monarchy in a scene replicating 1914’s amalgamation. Sadly, the child’s (Nigeria) problem began right from that christening, with the gathered groups noting the various missteps, including non-observance of traditional rites like pouring of libation and bringing the soothsayer to check its future.
Apart from questioning the child’s paternity, which the Lugards assure them has all their seeds, the groups also disagree on who will raise the child. In songs and dances, the production touches on Nigeria’s nationalist struggles, Independence and post-independent crises, the Civil War, military era and civilian dispensation. The child’s identity crisis is also well reflected, wailing in despair at a point about what it is. A propaganda play preaching unity in our diversity and the interconnectedness of all clans/tribes,  ‘Strings’ which was earlier performed at the National Theatre’s 2nd Festival of Unity on December 12, has a  call to action- unity is crucial.
“Our presentation of ‘Strings’ this evening is a creative and cultural engagement with the historical and rigorous socio-political journey of Nigeria through the threshold of nationhood. Within its various dramatic interplays of doubts, mistrust, rejections and acceptance, ‘Strings’ draws attention towards the strength of our shared heritage, unity, peace and progress,” Artistic Director of the National Troupe,  Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed said in his opening remarks.
In an interview after the show, Ahmed, who had led the Troupe to perform at the Nigeria Day at the ongoing Dubai 2020 Expo, expressed happiness at its return to the stage and assured that it would contribute actively to the country’s development efforts.
Ahmed said, “I feel excited, elated that the National Troupe of Nigeria is back again because it is the cultural ambassador of Nigeria. We are supposed to, at every given instance, show Nigerians the path to glory, through dance, music, drama, and other performative arts.  For the past six years, we never had anything like this. Today, we’re having a rebirth, and I assure Nigerians that we are going to aid our development with the performative arts.”
Ahmed who admitted that the Troupe’s return to the stage wasn’t easy because morale was low when he assumed office, said it would not just entertain people.
“We are not just entertainers, we are development workers. We need to speak to our developmental issues. We all know our issues in Nigeria, the National Troupe will gear up to ensure that we use the arts to address those issues. Today’s performance is one of the ways because our children lost their history and ‘Strings’ is bringing back the history of Nigeria. It will enable our youth to understand our history and where we are going because they have a role to play in ensuring that tomorrow is better than today.”
The Artistic Director also disclosed that he had started moves to rectify his predecessor’s controversial decision to sack all resident artists of the National Troupe.
“I’m working with the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and Accountant General to ensure that by 2022, we can also get artists that are on board with us,” he said.
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