Lights, camera, action. Everyone loves the movie business but what happens when you have over run your budget and schedule, a rival producer is poaching your cast, the actors are fighting and/or drunk and the neighbours are shooting at you.
For director Okafor, this is all part of daily life working in Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry.
Passing Wind, the working title for Oladipo Agboluaje’s latest play for Talawa Theatre Company, is still very much a work in progress. It’s an ambitious project, looking at multiple themes and mixing drama with comedy against a backdrop some in the audience may be unfamiliar with.
Okafor is trying to film Rebirth, an epic looking at his country’s heritage. It’s a struggle as Colin, his sole English actor is a down-at-heel alcoholic, his leading lady is only taking part in the film to rebuild her standing in the church community, and his leading man, Nollywood’s answer to Leonardo De Caprio, is slowly turning Glaswegian in a futile attempt to gain a role in a British crime drama.
There’s much promise here but in this early draft there is still much work to do. For those not overtly familiar with the Nigerian film industry, the context isn’t always apparent. The comedy does transcend cultural barriers; however, at the moment it’s not always enough to maintain interest.
Compared with its Hollywood inspiration, the Nollywood film industry manages on a mere fraction of a budget and this does provide much potential for dramatic intrigue. This current draft of Agboluaje’s script, however, seems lacklustre in comparison with his earlier work; dialogue seems strained and running at just over two hours overlong.
There are some nice performances from the cast in this script-in-hand reading. Jocelyn Jee Esien’s Christiana engulfed in religious fervour, Wale Ojo’s preening Heston and Anthony Ofoegbu’s under pressure Okafor all work well.
Talawa Theatre Company intends to spend another year working on this before coming up with the finished product and it will be interesting to see what that end result looks like.
If they can tighten the action, focus on defining the characters and look at the dialogue, Passing Wind offers the potential for a comic look at perhaps one of the world’s overlooked film industries.