Theatre in the opinion of Abiodun Udom is much more harder than film making, stage plays take a whole lot of time, countless hours of rehearsing to deliver the perfect picture. As someone who studied dramatic art at a very early age at Obafemi Awolowo University, the choice happened as an unplanned action. Majoring in dance back then as an undergraduate, Abiodun decided to explore other fields in dramatic arts such as acting, producing, directing and writing of stage plays.
He rewrote and directed his first stage play in 2018 with Solomon Iguanre’s popular 2002 play “Grave Encounters” . Since then he has gone to do more magic by directing more plays by Nigeria’s finest writers from Femi Osofisan (Love’s unlike lading) to Wole Soyinka (The Trials of Brother Jero) and Ahmed Yerima (Yemoja). While directing these sensational body of works he got the opportunity to work with directors like Muyideen Oladapo who is also a well known Nollywood (Yoruba), actor and Helen Paull.
“No one is willing to invest in an upcoming person, they will rather go and invest in an already succeeding larger troupe/person ” Abiodun Udom- an upcoming Theatre practitioner.
Working with these director’s, he shared this: “I’ve learned to hone my directorial skills from Ogundeji and Oladapo in particular. Through a fine blend of theories and practice, I learned to understand the intricacies of directing an unorthodox play. I’ve also learned much about man management. Every play is different. Every actor is different, as a director you must understand these differences and harness the positives to ensure a good production. From Helen Paul, I learned how to be hands-on. She taught me the more on the businesses part of “show biz”
Fast forward to last month (February) Abiodun finally got the chance to showcase his first ever original written and directed stage play titled “Check in” at the annual Lagos Theatre Festival. The process by which “Check in” came to be is rather coincidental, “I shared the story I read a few years back about Nigerians travelling at the airport and adapted it into a stage play for one of my assignments back in school and i got an A on the course. I felt it was a good content, so when the opportunity to submit a play for Lagos Theatre Festival came, I and my troupe were actually rehearsing a different play entirely but we couldn’t get the right of permission from the playwright. So I had to quickly come up with something and then “Check in” came to my mind, so i went back to refresh my memory and drafted out a story then i added some new characters, made it more comical and made sure it matched the theme of the festival (Lagos Theatre fFstival), eventually i pitched the idea to my cast and crew, they loved it and we concluded to go with it. This whole process took about a week”.
One would think getting the first ever big gig would be filled with anxiety and nervousness, but it was a different story entirely for Abiodun, “Lagos Theatre Festival 2020 was the first time I was participating as a performer. I’d attended the festival as a guest and for some workshops. Taking a newly formed group of mostly non-professionals, I had to ensure everything was ready. I didn’t even have time to watch other productions because I was concentrated on making sure ours went well. I am sure the other guys did well, but it’s not a competition. Variety, they say, is the spice of life”.
Abiodun is still upcoming in his field and that means the struggle to get funds is still one of the major challenges he faces, but to him he believes upcoming theatre practitioners should stick together, do a lot of collaborations, partnerships in order to get “bigger” . He also made something very clear during our conversation, his troupe is made up of “working class” individuals.
« The actors i get for my troupe are not actually actors, they are more working class people, for example i have people who studied Microbiology, Banking & Finance, Computer Engineering, Guidance Counseling but they all came together, it was part of mutual interest, some were friends, some were the people i met through friends, so we came together and concluded to do stage plays as a side hustle aside everyone’s day job, i don’t pay them, no one gets paid but the profit we get from productions get split among everybody (actors and crew members money from ticket sales, sponsorship and through any financial avenue ».
As someone who has covered almost every aspect of the Theatre field from working at National Theater in Oyo State council for arts and culture and also at the Helen Paul film and Theatre academy to finally writing and directing his own very first original play, Abiodun wishes to make it to the “big screen” not necessarily as an actor but as a director and producer.