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Fred Agbeyegbe: Celebrating theatre legend at 80

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ADEBAYO OBAJEMU

Fred Agbeyegbe, has many things in common with two giants of the theatre of the 20th century: Bertolt Brecht, the German impressionist dramatist, and Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian playwright who wrote the highly influential: Enemy of the People among other theatrical masterpieces: What connects Agbeyegbe who turns 80 this week with these two giants of the theatre?

It is precisely Agbeyegbe’s deployment of the medium of theatre to challenge received orthodoxies, ask critical question about the human condition and engage power in a dialectical discourse on essences, morality, and precisely on human condition in general, and the place of power in moderating the dialectic between peoples in the society and resolving their conflicts.

In a perceptive book, ‘’Drama from Ibsen to Brecht’’, the Welsh critic Raymond Williams, had written that ‘’For Brecht who was deeply concerned with contemporary  human condition it was hard to distinguish between the use of history and fable, in his fable plays : The Good Woman of Setzuan  and The Caucausian Chalk Circles’’, the issues discussed are characteristically simpler, the survival quality of goodness and evil, the definition of justice by the needs of life: All these find a centrality in Brecht , but are presented in the fable plays as cases for debate’’. In Agbeyegbe, the issues are also characteristically simpler, they draw from everyday life of  the disenfranchised, disadvantaged and disempowered non-persons that the ineptitude of governance has reduced all of us to, in spite of our gifts, natural and intellectual endowements.In such provocative plays such as :The King Must Dance Naked and The Last Omen, Agbeyegbe raises the bar on discursive nature of the theatre as an avenue to ask critical questions that concern all of us.    Mr. Fred Agbeyegbe, the grand living legend of Nigerian theatre, is being feted by the literary and dramatic community  from July 19 to 25, 2015 in a carnival celebration in his honour. He was  a dominant narrative of Nigeria’s theatre development through the Ajo Productions 1983 to 1986.

Arts and culture dignitaries expected to attend the events lined up to celebrate the icon are Prof. Femi Osofisan, who will chair the event; guests of honour include Mr. Bayo Oduneye, Profs. Duro Oni and Akin Oyebode, Mrs. Hairat Balogun, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Chief Ayo Opadokun, among others.

There will also be paper presentations on ‘The Socio-Cultural Relevance of Fred Agbeyegbe’s Plays in Itsekiri World-view’ by Prof. Tony Afejuku, and ‘Gender Representation in Fred Agbeyegbe’s Plays’ by Prof. Mabel Evwierhoma.