JP Clark's Wives' revolt showcases remedy for social disorder
Aristotle, in one of his write-ups, said: “In revolutions, the occasions may be trifling, but great interests are at stake.”
This saying brings the untoward issue of wives’ revolt in JP Clark’s play to the fore. To a traditional African man, it is an aversion scream for the woman (wife) whose bride price he paid to revolt against him. What an abomination! The male folk would scream to the high heavens, and in fact, do everything humanly possible to make the revolting women (wives) to go on their kneels and propitiate for violating their custom.
But did Clark’s women care? No! They did not, because the men who were at treetop fowled the air and the flies were puzzled.
The play was presented last Sunday to theatre audience by OneTheatre Troupe to celebrate Nigeria’s 59th Independence Day.
The play opens with Okoro, the town crier, informing Erhuware people that the money the oil company operating in its community gave to the village has been shared into three equal parts — the elders, men and women. The announcer also informs that each group is to get their share according to their age group. After passing the message, he returns home only to be confronted by Koko, his wife.
Koko, who represents the women, challenges the husband on why the largesse should be shared in such a formula, knowing too well that the elders are the men. She sees the formula as being unfair, adding that it would have been much better if it had been shared just between the male and female folks. Her argument is that by the sharing formula, the malefolk holds two-third of the oil revenue.
Why women agitate for a fair sharing formula, some men reported to the council of elders that women in the village have resulted to using witchcraft and turning to goats, to harm them at night. This leads to the council of elders to come up with a law that banishes goats in the village.
The new law ignited fire in the already heated polity, as the women saw it as anti-women, especially as goat is the only domestic animals they are allowed to keep.
To stop men from carrying out the oppressive law, the women plan to stage a protest with the central authority. At a said date, they left the village marching through Otughieven, Igherekan, Imode to Eyara, leaving their children and husbands to fate. They made their husbands to do domestic chores such as babysitting, cooking, sweeping, taking the children to school and other tasks considered to be part of the duties of a woman.
Not batting an eyelid at their wives’ absence, the men frolicked with free women in the village. And since their husbands are not coming for them, the protesting women pressed on to Eyara, where they were accommodated and cared for by Ighodayen, a notorious prostitute.
Hearing that their wives have got to Eyara and in the hands of Ighodayen, the men plead for their return, but unfortunately all the women have contacted venereal disease. And it became a case of had we known.
Presented directed by Matthew Ojo, the play depicts themes that include inequality, highhandedness, oppressive social structure imposed by laws and nature, poor crisis management and inequitable distribution of resources.
With Charles Adigwe (Okoro) and Helen Adamu (Koko) interpreting their roles to the admiration of the audience, the beauty of the playwright using the stage to settle crisis comes to the fore. Here, the male and female folks saw their shortcomings and blamed themselves for acting the they did. While the male blamed themselves for pushing their women to the extreme with their laws, the women call for caution, realising that they, the women, ought not to have gone to the extent of allowing their anger to becloud their reasoning.
The play evenly apportions blames to both gender, highlighting the complementary roles each play to the other.
It also projects that violence in any form does not benefit anybody, but in most times creates more problems in the polity, as it could be seen in the women bring home infections that may end up taking the lives of some of the men.
Though wordy, Wives’ Revolt goes beyond the spectacle to a very rich content that calls on opinion moulders and custodians of the African culture to revisit some of frica’s value system and come up with standards that give male and female equal opportunity in the society.
Though, nature appears to assign women with the role of home-keeping and other not too tasking duties, the society — rural or urban — will get no better if the women are not well cared for. Also, it is a call for the womenfolk to cooperate with their husbands, seeing them as not just their heads, but as partners they need to work together with for the progress of the family and advancement of the society.
Taking another holistic view of the play, the playwright tries to position a situation, where the oil companies, representing the imperialists milk the people and throw peanuts at them to fight over while they capitalise on the fracas created to explore the people and their communities the more. It calls on the people to be cautious of the largesse they get from these companies, as in most cases, they are meant to stir feud, rather than better the lot of the people.
The play also calls for those fanning the embers of war to be mindful of their actions, because they might not live to tell the course the war will take.
In all, the cast and crew put up a superlative act; the war songs and costumes were apt and relevant to Nigeria’s current situation. They further helped to pass on the message.