With spectacular drama, comedy and musical performances, veteran actor and musician, Jimi Solanke on Monday November 9 led old and young entertainers to announce that the good old days are back at the Wole Soyinka Theatre in the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan.
Known as the Arts Theatre until 2018 when it was renamed after Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, who was the first African head of the department founded in 1963, the oldest institutional laboratory for training human resource in the media, creative and culture industry, was only recently given a facelift, courtesy media mogul, Otunba Deji Osibogun, an old student, after 15 years of physical decline and lull in patronage.
Now, the hitherto decrepit lighting and cooling systems within the ambience of the facility have been restored and are now functioning, while the basement, toilets and water supply were also renovated with two overhead water tanks installed along with a borehole. A carved bold lettering of ‘Wole Soyinka Theatre’ now also adorns the frontage as the new signboard!
On the opening night, tagged: ‘An Evening at the Theatre’, which was also used to celebrate Osibogun’s 65th birthday, legendary Solanke with a band consisting of old colleagues including saxophone virtuoso, Anjola Aboderin; Bisi Ogubadejo (The Guardian cartoonist); Tunde Fagbenle; Howard University-trained Gboyega Adelaja; Tunde Adegbola; and Osibogun himself, thrilled the audience with special renditions from his repertoire of popular folk songs including Baba Eni Joye and Tunji Oyelana’s Eniyan Bi Aparo Lomo Araye N’Fe. The crew also re-enacted the heydays, performing tunes like Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s Palaver and Hubert Ogunde’s Awolowo Ajagunmale, Yoruba Ronu, with a mishmash of soul and ‘twist’ songs.
Young filmmaker, award-winning Feyisayo Ilori led a crew of young, talented thespians, singers, dancers, comedians and comperes from Space Network, Osibogun’s firm, a major player in the film and broadcasting industry, that brought the guests back from the musical excursion into the past with trending acts and presentations that enlivened the evening the more.
The artistes performed to a full house including UI Vice Chancellor, Prof. Idowu Olayinka; Emeritus Professor of Drama, Femi Osofisan; former Artistic Director, National Troupe, Bayo Oduneye; TV drama series and broadcasting expert, Laolu Ogunniyi, Mrs. Adeola Osibogun, members of the academic community and invited dignitaries.
Osibogun said he renovated the theatre, among other reasons, to appreciate the role of the department in making him and to revive the dying culture of theatre in Ibadan and environs. “So many of us have taken from the Nigerian society, but have failed to give back. I believe in the spirit of give and take and I want to make heaven,” he said.
The VC thanked Osibogun for the gesture, particularly his tenacity and time sacrificed in supervising the project to completion.