Eminent theatre director, Bayo Oduneye, veteran actress, Taiwo Ajai- Lycett and ace cinematographer, Tunde Kelani, would receive awards on Tuesday at the opening of the 2019 Lagos Fringe International Festival.
The trio, according to Festival’s artistic director, Kenneth Uphopho, would be honoured for their immense contributions “to the development of the theatre profession and as well as the shaping of the creative industry of Nigeria” at the event happening at Alliance Francaise, Mike Adenuga Centre, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Uphopho added that the honour is being conferred on the trailblazers on the recommendations of the Lagos Fringe advisory board, in recognition of the fact that they are “some of the very few ‘true icons’ of the Nigerian theatre, who have in particular been ‘mentors’ of several generations of Nigerian Theatre Artistes”.
He explained that the objective is to showcase them as models for the younger generation of theatre artistes, to encourage them to keep striving to prove their mettles in the difficult terrain of theatrical productions in the country and, in the continent.
Popularly called Uncle B, Oduneye, trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) in England and at the Carnegie Melon University, Pittsburgh, USA. For decades, he taught directing at the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan, and later at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Abeokuta, where he took up adjunct professor seat after his retirement from the University of Ibadan. He has held several distinguished positions, including as artistic director, festival drama manager (FESTAC 77), chairman of the Nigerian Film Corporation, and later as Artistic Director of the National Troupe of Nigeria between 1991 and 2000. He is reputed to have directed nearly all the classic theatrical plays coming out of Africa in the 70s through the 2000s. He founded Diamond Productions through which he directed many memorable productions, including Wole Soyinka’s classic, Death and the King’s Horseman, which he did for the Nigeria Industrial Bank, (NIB) drama series. He disbanded the company upon his appointment as Artistic Director of National Troupe of Nigeria. After his tour of duty, he founded Lagemo Players with his friend Ambassador Olu Otunla.
Referred to as the “Dame of the Nigerian Stage and Screen”, Ajai-Lycett, has been a recurring decimal on the story of the Nigeria and African Theatre profession. She trained as a journalist in the United Kingdom and rose to become editor of Africa Woman, a political, economic and social magazine for black and African men and women in the Diaspora. A chance encounter with a theatre producer made her become an actress, thus launching a career that has seen strut the stage and screen at home and abroad for almost six decades now. She made her acting debut in December 1966, in Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel, a two-act comedy directed by William Gaskill at the Royal Court Theatre in London.
Subsequently, she enrolled at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In 1972, she left her corporate career and joined the Traverse Theatre Group for the Edinburgh Festival. She was later in a string of television and stage shows. While in England, she also featured in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, the famous British sitcom alongside the popular comedian, Julius spencer. Her acting career flowered at the prestigious Royal Court Theatre, Sloane’s Square, London, and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). She has performed in many leading theatres in the UK, such as the Traverse Theatre at the Edinburgh International Festival; the Gaiety Theatre, at the Dublin International Theatre Festival; and The Bristol Old Vic. She was conferred with an Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in 2006 by President Olusegun Obasanjo, on occasion of Nigeria’s 47th Independence Day Anniversary. She is also a Fellow (SONTA) a Fellow of the Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists.
Kelani, filmmaker and culture advocate, is primarily regarded as the standard for the Nigerian Film Culture. Founder of the famous Mainframe Productions (aka Opomulero), Kelani’s works, mostly on the Yoruba language, have for decades manifest as the face of Nigerian cinema in the global film circuit. Having been introduced to Yoruba literature from an early stage in his life, Kelani was greatly influenced by the travelling theatre tradition championed by the likes of late Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola and Duro Ladipo among others. He got interested in photography from primary school.
In the 1970s, he worked as a BBC TV and Reuters correspondent, and in the then Western Nigerian Television Services. He later worked as a cameraman/producer at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), from where he left to study Cinematography and Film Production at the London Film School. Once he finished from the London Film School, he returned to Nigeria and co-produced his first film with Adebayo Faleti – The Dilemma of Rev. Father Michael (Idaamu Paadi Minkailu). His other cinematic works, most of which are adaptations of existing literary works, include Ti Oluwa Ni ile, Ayo ni Mofe, Koseegbe, Oleku, Saworoide, Agogo Ewo, The White Handkerchief, The Narrow Path, Arugba, Thunderbolt, Maami, Campus Queen, Dazzling Mirage and lately Sidi Ilujinle. In 1991, Kelani started his own production company, Mainframe Films and Television Productions – Opomulero, so he could “produce films and not just lend technical support.”
An initiative of the Performing Arts Workshop & Studios (PAW STUDIOS), a media and productions company based in Lagos, Lagos Fringe International Festival will run through November 24 at various venues across.