Last time I heard The Gods Are Not To Blame was being staged in Kenya was back in the early 70s. It has probably been staged somewhere since then, but not until last Sunday did I get a chance to see the acclaimed West African play performed at the Saint Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Karen.
The play itself was a game-changer when it was first published in 1971, first because Nigerian playwright Ola Rotimi was a scholar in his own right. He drew inspiration for his play from the ancient Greek philosopher Sophocles’ tragedy, Oedipus Rex.
But just as important as having a pithy storyline about patricide and incest, and the debate between fate and free will, Rotimi also indigenised and adapted the script.
He brought his characters back to what he envisaged as pre-colonial Africa, specifically to his own Yoruba-land which has its own pantheon of gods.
Rotimi also interwove a slew of Yoruba proverbs and riddles into his characters’ mouth. And while one wished a few of those riddles could have been edited out since they slowed down the play’s action, the Drama Club’s back stage crew were efficient in making set changes in no time.
That’s just one thing to commend about the Seminarians’ play.
Visually speaking, one could see how much care and creativity, time and thought had gone into developing the costumes which were the best I have seen all year, the face and body painting which were not overdone, and even the set design.
The set design was also one of the finest. One could see a kind of Yoruba iconography in the images, at least one of which represented Ogun, one of their gods.