by Frank Onuoha
A flawless dance or drama production is a crowd-pleaser any day. However, when dance and drama meets on the same script and the same stage the effect is fitting for only a classic romance adventure. It is even more interesting when a tedious branch of medicine is seamlessly combined to dance and drama. The result is better experienced than told or imagined. On Sunday evening, 25 August, 2013, I attended the last show of the dance drama, ‘Take Heart’ from the stable of Star Art Stage Productions at Terra Kulture.
‘Take Heart’ as narrated by the character ‘Dr Thomas Udoh’ is the painful story of Paul, a promising young man bent on pursuing his passion for football. However a heart condition (dilated Cardio Myopathy) stood in the way of realizing his dreams. He will require a heart transplant surgery as soon as possible or face imminent death. Caroline is his steadfast girlfriend who vowed to do anything including donate her heart to save her man’s life. According to the doctor she will have to die first before they will take her priceless treasure. Paul will have none of it. He preferred death to taking Caroline’s heart. Paul’s mother was his only family. Her primary focus at the time was to save her son’s life and will stop at nothing including selling her business to raise money for Paul’s heart operation.
Across town were newlyweds, Michael and Rose who were enjoying their new life together. Michael was gainfully employed while Rose was a proprietress of famous restaurant in town where Paul’s friends hangout. Everything seemed magical and smooth until Michael traveled and was involved in a horrific road accident. His heart beats but his brain was dead. When she couldn’t take the pain anymore, Rose agreed to donate Michael’s heart to someone that will need it to live. Fortunately for Paul, he was a perfect match and on top of the surgery list. The surgery was successful; Paul had his second chance at life. He will be able to fulfill his dream of football. However, Caroline does have a lot to worry about when she encounters Paul and Rose getting uncomfortably close. Does Paul’s heart still beat for her?
The actors talk and dance their way through emotion packed two hours. These are two hours of intimately shared moments of love, pain, tears, laughter, loneliness and comradeship. My date dabbed her eyes several times and snuggled closer the rest of the times.
The cast in ‘Take Heart’ left no one in doubt they knew what they signed up for. A well choreographed stage movement; dance steps that left the audience often on their feet; facial expressions and exchanges that interpreted each scene to near perfection; seamless line deliveries; a meticulous attention to sound media and light interfaces made it an awestruck night for the audience that took every space in the about five hundred capacity hall.
Theater practice in Nigeria is said to be on a decline because of low patronage by practitioners and their patrons. Theater practice outside the university is different in terms of the awareness. I recall that while in the university the publicity was fervent. The troupes will go round the university for many days – sometimes using carnival floats, to invite students and everyone to attend. It is a bigger society outside the university and will not likely be covered with such ease or fervency. Besides there are other forms of entertainment competing for people’s attention which is why I believe producers of ‘Take Heart’ exerted themselves commendably in publicity. It is heartwarming and encouraging witnessing a large turnout of theater faithful at the event. It was like those days in the university.
Theater patronage may not necessarily be in decline, but standards such as was set by Star Stage Art Productions may be in decline. Patrons are aching for productions that will offer them such intimate moments as ‘Take Heart’ did. Hence for the arts, ‘Take Heart’ was a triumph.
According to the Artistic Director, Gbenga Yusuf, ‘Take Heart’ was a passionate effort to raise “public awareness about Cardio Vascular Disease. Every year 17.5 million people are dying from the epidemic. This is a disease that does not discriminate.” The season two will be coming later in the year.