The play evoked a rollercoaster of emotions. The stage movements and purposely intense lighting deepened the discourse even more. Unspoken issues were unapologetically bared leaving the audience shocked and hooked, spiraling with contradictory emotions.
Unlike most plays, Hear Word! Had no separate Acts or Scenes, rather, the play was set in an array of sequences, with each touching light issues from marriage pressures to heavier ones such as rape and domestic violence. Of these sequences, only four will be discussed for an inside scoop of the play; Touch, Girl Child, Iyaloja and Songs of Praise.
Touch opened up about the brazen abusive treatment in crowded places, especially on Lagos signature yellow buses, danfo. Though set up as a hilarious commentary, it stirred an uneasy and upsetting feeling among the audience. These suggestive “touches” that often go unheard were artistically recounted where men would “accidentally” brush their hands against woman’s breasts, or “accidentally” ram themselves against her backside. The indignities women suffer in open public places stirred feelings of self reflection if one were to be a victim or to witness this abuse.
The Girl Child
This performance alluded to the ongoing defilement of the female child. The scene is set where a mother leaves her daughter home with the housemaids. An uncle visits. The pubescent girl is prey to his sexual abusive attacks on his orders that she is disrespectful. The housemaids are powerless. Who would believe a child, a girl child? Nobody would believe a woman over a man’s voice.
A tale so common in the lives of independent successful women. The character, Iyaloja, is the bread winner; a very industrious woman, married a man who fed off her labour. Iyaloja is the bread winner. They have no children, but share a blissful marriage. An unfortunate incident kills her husband and true to the patriarchal African society, his family come to dispossess Iyaloja of the property they thought belonged to their son. A discerning woman, Iyaloja calls her fellow market women. They bind up the men, phone the police and inform them they have caught market thieves.
Songs of Praise
The sequence, Songs of Praise, gave reverence to a woman’s virginity. She talked about sex in an unfamiliar manner, addressing an imaginary church audience to teach them about sex. She used her life as an example. A Church sister, married and a virgin; she narrated her first sexual experience with her husband. An unknown sensation clouded with her head. Thinking she was possessed, she jumped off her husband and began casting and binding the evil. Her husband told her she just enjoyed the pleasure of sex for the first time and she would come to love it much later. She praised the virginity; keep it pure and treasured.
Hear Word! Naija Women Talk True, is a source of inspiration and empowerment to Nigerian women to move beyond societal institutions. It has been staged internationally in the Netherlands at Frascati theater Amsterdam and in the US at Harvard University campus and at Torp theater in Central Connecticut State University.