BY FEMI ALABI ONIKEKU
As part of activities lined-up for the African American History Month in February, the American Consulate will bring home Tayo Aluko, the Liverpool-based, son of renowned Nigerian novelist, T.M. Aluko, to re-enact the life and times of African-American, Paul Robeson.
In a statement, the spokesperson of Reputations Consult, Lagos, Mrs. Christy Odia, said the play would be staged on January 28 and 29 at The Agip Hall, Muson Centre, Lagos.
Aluko, an architect-turned actor/singer and a multiple award-winning performer across Europe and America, wrote Call Mr. Robeson in celebration of Robeson’s remarkable and eventful life.
It highlights how Robeson’s activism led to his being disowned and forgotten, even by the leaders and descendants of the civil rights movement.
It also features some of his famous songs and speeches, including a dramatic rendition of Ol’ Man River and a spectacularly defiant testimony in front of the Senate House Un-American Activities Committee.
Aluko recalls how he came across Robeson’s story almost by chance in 1995: “I decided that Robeson’s story needed to be told, not just because it was so remarkable, but because it is so inspiring. I am thrilled by the reception the story has received in UK, America and at home in Nigeria.”
Accompanying Aluko on piano will be Lagos’s own Babatunde Sosan – who trained at Trinity College of Music, London. Sosan is equally at home on the church organ or playing jazz, and is a favourite as accompanist and soloist among Nigeria’s classical music talents.
Call Mr. Robeson has achieved acclaim around the UK and in North America. It was last seen in Washington DC, where it was previewed in the Washington Post and was selected as a “Top Pick” by the DC Theater Scene reviewer, who described it as “an invigorating and rich story for novice and scholar alike. Aluko seems to almost channel Robeson’s fury as he takes the stand for justice and equity. It is a must-see experience, a treasure of a show.”
Describing the play in a July 2008 review, the Latest 7 Bill Magazine, Brighton, UK, writes: The forerunner of ... the [new] American president was at the same time one of the most famous singers in the world and the champion of the civil rights movement.
Aluko’s portrayal of Robeson is spot on. “In about an hour, you learn everything about Robeson, but this is no dry history lesson, rather a thrilling, moving and marvelously entertaining musical drama. Aluko’s singing of Robeson songs like Ol’ Man River and Steal Away is totally soulful and convincing!”