Lekan Adeniyi’s Pinch of Salt is a copious testimony of the capacity of man to do good and evil. The play staged at the Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos on June 12 is a multilayered commentary on all that is wrong with Nigeria and the capacity of the country to self-reform.
Just name it: corruption in high places, man’s inhumanity to man, vengeance, pervasive social injustice, the sad menace of prison congestion, mal-administration of the country as well as all that military in government bring on the civil populace find space in the 150-minute production which stars a largely understated cast.
But there is also a not too obvious intent to elevate the importance of worship and irrepressible joy when the lead female character, Omofela Peters (Adebusola Olujuyigbe) gets this titular appellation from Tarila Ikoko (Prince Onojeide), the same prison officer who remains the albatross of every prisoner (at Kimora Prison) but more so Omofela who he despises for having a well-heeled parentage.
The play is a simple, almost everyday story of a prison life. Of prisoners who bear different fates and pedigrees, of prison officials who are frustrated by their own personal challenges or the inefficiency of the system into becoming adult miscreants or total sadists, even sociopaths who take it all out on helpless inmates.
So when Superintendent Lotana Azuka (Okechukwu Onyekwuluje) of Kimora Prisons is an irredeemable drunk who does not take his job seriously until there is a need for some eye-service and his assistant Tarila becomes a terror who would threaten, poison, even try to kill inmates just to get even at them, you feel a sense that they are avenging themselves on the society for some not expressly stated unattained aspirations. This is subtly indicate when the superintendent runs into old schoolmate who is now a successful investigate journalist.
Tarila, in particular could not stand the infectious irrepressible spirit of Omofela who has been unjustly sentenced to death for an armed robbery she knows nothing about. On the prompting of her husband when he visits her in prison, this mother of one (who just happened to be in the wrong place at a wrong time), does not just start to inspire endless joy in her co-inmates, she also motivates them into daringe the excesses of the wicked prison official.
And for this she incurs the wrath of Tarila. The prison officer tells the state military administrator all sorts of convenient stories about why some inmates need to be promptly executed and attempts to circumvent every known procedure for such executions with the involuntary help of Officer Lamidi (Seun Dehinsilu) who alongside Officer Nengi (Abisola Adetola), the only female prison official, provide intermittent but sufficient comic relief throughout the duration of the play.
As the play winds down, the audience, (which is now so sure of Omofela’s innocence from the confession of Lauretta (Juliet Ofoeyeno), her former schoolmate and leader of the robbery gang, “Night Angels” to her sister Lovina (Ifebuche Ogbonna) is held spellbound as it waits with bated breath to see whether Omofela would eventually die for a crime she has not committed, which would make her an architype of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And although such injustice is a daily occurrence in societies like this, Adeniyi who doubles as writer and director of the play avoids the execution of this innocent soul. Not only that, he also passes a subtle message of the intervention of the divine in her eventual survival despite all the machinations of the hateful prison official.
The play going on for almost three hours would have bored an audience stiff were the director not one who knows his onions. Pinch of Salt is a long play, it is also set in a single location (Kimora Prisons), yet the audience manifestly had a good time, given the standing ovation it gave at the end of the play.
With sometimes poetic and memorable dialogue, the use of music which speaks to the mood of every moment, lights which appropriately depicts mood, songs from the inmates which resonates many members of the audience, the injection of comedy (which spices the play at appropriate intervals) from Lamidi, Nengi, the inmates Shanana in particular (Moji Dehinsilu) and Jolomi (Tosin Jimoh). Alongside the progressive nature of the plot, the director got himself a totally enthralled audience.
But the actors which include: Udochukwu Onuoha – Rear admiral Akinlabi Badru, Iboro Tonye-Edet- Omotoke Badru, Tosin Jimoh- Jolomi Omokaro, Uche Onyekwuluje – Yellow (inmate),Yemisi Obadina – Ameyo (inmate) and Becky Olorunpomi -(inmate) also give a good account of themselves. Tarila stands out of the pack for the consistence and conviction he brought into his role, same for Lotana and a large number of the cast. Indeed, but for one or two mishaps (like Lauretta who forgets the name of her sister) which was quickly corrected, the cast and crew of Pinch of Salt could as well be said to have delivered a faultless play, which ministers to soul as well as it challenges the hearts of men.
See pictures from the show