KelvinMary Ndukwe’s Sisi Pelebe is a Lagos Theatre Festival favourite having shown thrice at the 6 year old festival.
Why is this? The play is a good example of immersive theatre. It eschews the formal stage for a non-site specific one in which the actors sit within the audience thus making the audience an integral part of the production. In this case, however, the audience’s participation is not very interactive beyond responding to the action and dialogue of the actors.
Sisi Pelebe is a play filled with questions seeking elusive answers until the very end when all the disparate strands come together and one of the characters actually says “Wow , daddy. I asked one question and got a bonus.”
The audience have come to find out who Sisi Pelebe is but end up getting plenty for the price of one.
The key question at the heart of the play is who is Sisi Pelebe? We are not told immediately but in classic dramatic irony fashion, we are confronted with the fact that Sisi Pelebe had been standing right in front of us the whole while.
Sisi Pelebe is a play about family dysfunction. There are so many words flying around between the siblings, Kayode and Bunmi aka Scooby, then the couple, Sade and Roy. There are also constant references to an Uncle Damola who is off stage that leave the audience’s heads spinning.
The audience is not sure of what the issue is but from the family dynamics, one is made immediately aware that there is a nasty secret between the siblings and that Uncle Damola, who turns out to be Sade’s brother, is a divisive influence and a key trigger for the emotional outbursts.
Kayode provides much of the play’s comic interludes and gravitas. He has commanding stage presence and has the facility for imbuing his lines with power.
A tender moment between mother and daughter leads to the revelation that their mother was a lesbian. She was beaten and tortured in order to cure her of her sickness. “I was young and my first love was a woman. I did not date men. I was just not attracted to them. They said I had an evil spirit.”
As the revelations pour out, Bunmi asks a key question: “Does Daddy know?”
Sisi Pelebe is all shades of nasty. There is incest. Exorcism. Depravity. Same sex relationships and lots of salacious details.
Once the flood gates open, the secrets just won’t stop tumbling out and in that sense, the play becomes a comment on hypocrisy and how we cower behind facades to hide our true selves.
Damola’s appearance on stage is the catalyst for all the revelations and unravelling and at the end of the play, nothing we thought we knew remains true. The revelation of Sisi Pelebe’s identity had the whole house roaring.
This is a timely play that riffs on very topical 21st century Nigeria issues that every family will relate too.
A play worth seeing.