The poet Uzor Maxim Uzoatu will launch his two plays, Doctor of Football and A Play of Ghosts, on Saturday, October 8 at the esteemed Culture Café of Prince of Anthony hotel in Anthony Village, Lagos. The event which starts at 2PM will feature a lecture on “Theatre As A Tool For Social Change” by Odia Ofeimun, the famous poet and dance drama exponent. It is remarkable that the double book presentation takes place in the hotel where Fela Anikulapo-Kuti wedded his 27 wives.
Doctor of Football was first produced on stage in 1979 under the direction of Uzoatu in his hometown of Umuchu, Aguata LGA, Anambra State. The play uses Nigeria’s greatest unity-inducing sport, football, as a drama of national intercourse. The play draws all its characters (Ahmed, Timi, Bayo, Nnamdi, Bassey) from every part of the Nigerian nation. The play can conveniently be staged in the theatre, stadium, school, market or any open space for that matter.
The play is relevant especially today that Nigeria is facing threats on many fronts with terrorism, militancy and bigotry dangerously pulling the country apart. It is a known fact all over the world that art heals even where politics fails. Theatre happens to be the most potent art form to unite and mobilize the people, while the game of football is the pivotal unifying aspect of Nigerian life.
According to Uzoatu, “The pivotal importance of football to Nigerians was struck home to me through the reactions of students who read my article, ‘The Match That Broke The Myth’, which was included in INTENSIVE ENGLISH – For Senior Secondary Schools, a piece originally published in THISWEEK magazine of September 15, 1986. It is my desire to inaugurate the pan-Nigerian unifier through theatre.”
A Play Of Ghosts, on its part, demonstrates the drive needed to lift the downtrodden people into eminence in society. The play earned honourable mention as the runner-up to Bode Sowande’s Tornadoes Full Of Dreams in the 1989 Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Drama Prize contest.
The coordinator of the presentation, Obed Awowede, is intent on raising the needed funds for a nationwide production of the plays. He stresses that “it will be quite a sight seeing millions of our people rising to sing the theme-song at the end of Doctor of Football: Holi! Holi! Nigeria is one family!”
Uzor Maxim Uzoatu took a first degree in Dramatic Arts at the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) with Prof Wole Soyinka as Head of Department. He also has a Masters degree from the University of Lagos. He was a rural peasant theatre director before venturing into journalism as a founding staff of the African Guardian. He has worked in THISWEEK magazine and was the editor of Society magazine. He was the Editorial Page Editor of the Post Express and has been the chairman of the editorial board of some newspapers such as The Union.
The 1989 Distinguished Visitor at the Graduate School of Journalism, University of Western Ontario, Canada, he was nominated for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2008 for his short story “Cemetery of Life” published in Wasafiri magazine, London.
He is the author of the poetry collection God of Poetry and the novel The Missing Link. He recently wrote the narrative for Scottish photographer Owen Logan’s picture book, Masquerade: Michael Jackson Alive In Nigeria, exhibited at STILLS, Scotland’s Centre For Photography, Edinburgh from August 1 to October 26, 2014. Uzoatu lives in Lagos with his wife Chidimma and their four children.