Dramatising climate change
MARCH 6, 2012 BY AKEEM LASISI
Lecturer and actor, Greg Mbajiorgu, deploys theatre to the cause of climate change, writes AKEEM LASISI
Solo performer and Senior Lecturer, Department of Theatre and Film Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Greg Mbajoirgu, has stepped up his interest in environmental drama. His new play, Wake up Everyone, which centres on challenges of climate change, was recently staged in the university.
On why he dedicates a drama text to the subject, Mbajiorgu says more than any other media of artistic expression, drama and theatre provide society access to a truthful recreation of both the adverse effects of climate change and its consequences on human lives and even on our ecosystem.
He notes, “Through the vicarious platforms of theatre we experience these human conditions not directly but by way of witnessing the experience of other persons. Thus drama and theatre afford us the rare opportunity of gaining both practical and in-depth experience of the consequences of man’s ecological irresponsiblity in a pleasurable and extra-ordinarily empathetic manner.”
He was commissioned in 2009 to write a 20-minute play on climate change by African Technology Policy Network, Nairobi, Kenya.
“The opportunity was created by Prof. Charles Soludo’s African Institute for Applied Economists in 2007. After staging an end-of -year retreat drama for Soludo’s institute that year, the Executive Secretary of ATPS, Dr.Kelvin Urama, who was in the audience, requested my complimentary card which he got. In 2009, I received an invitation from ATPS to write a play for their international conference on climate change,” he adds.
While he wrote the 20-minute version in two weeks, the full-blown play took two years of research and creative effort to be completed. He explains that the time it took is a reflection of the tricky and complex nature of climate change.
He further notes, “Both researching and writing this play on climate change have afforded me the opportunity of discovering how ignorant most scholars in other disciplines are about the essentiality and centrality of drama to human and national development. I was shocked to find colleagues in Geography and Agric Engineering asking questions like What has drama got to do with climate change?.
“Granted, the core science of climate change should stay within the domain of the natural sciences, but we cannot effectively disseminate information on the climate change mitigation and adaptation without the skills and expertise of dramatists and theatre artists in general. Theatre is one of the most effective strategies through which we can give those crucial climate change adaptation messages the depth of public articulation that climate scientists and even other organs of public enlightenment can hardly give to the subject.”
The earliest version of the manuscript was performed for ATPS Nairobi during the closing dinner of their international conference on climate change held in Abuja Nigeria in 2009. Another scene of the play, was performed during the inauguration of the UNN’s committee on building trans-disciplinary climate change adaptation capacity at the university in 2011.
Mbajiorgu’s first play, The Prime Minister’s Son, was written 20 years ago, with the dramatist noting that the 20th anniversary edition will be out this month. His other plays are: Hands of fate, Wota na Wota and Beyond The Golden Prize.