In a world firmly in the grip of carnal love, it is easy to forget the import and origin of Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated to the Catholic’s St. Valentine of Rome, and his pioneering work in fostering Godly, agape love in healing the daughter of his jailer before his execution. Man’s quest to balance his social responsibility with his Christian obligations often leaves him falling remiss of the latter, particularly his duty to his neighbours whom he is enjoined to love just as he loves himself. But modern interpretations of St. Valentine’s intentions have since been muddled up in a world drowning in the sea of eroticism. So that what started out as man reaching back to his creator through neighbourly concerns has since been made pervert.
And while many social venues all over Lagos like eateries, beer parlours, hotels and even churches were festooned with red and white as expressive colours of carnal love, Ben Chiadika’s inspired The Pater’s Heritage remained true to the celebration of Godly love as St. Valentine intended it. The venue was PEFTI Hall at Joy Avenue, Ajao Estate, Isolo. The lower and upper galleries of the hall were filled up with those who had come to rekindle or be reminded of the love God has for them and how they, too, could reciprocate the divine love so ‘it could be well with them.’ And the two arms of The Pater’s Heritage – ‘Rose of Sharon’ and ‘Spirit and Truth’ – did not disappoint with their performances.
In Heart Songs, Ify Brown Monye sang ‘I come to the garden of love’ by Christy Lane, Treasure Chinyelu Ben-Chiadika ‘Running back to you’ by Heather Headley, Irene Chiadika ‘You are the love of my life’ by Darlene, Edna Konwea ‘I love you, Lord’ by Maranatha Singers and Ben Chiadika ‘Falling in love’ by Phil Driscoll and Edwin Etuk ‘Falling in love’ by Edwin Etuk; they all performing singly and then as a group to give vocal virtuoso to these spirit-filling songs, and the audience felt immensely lifted. From Monye’s ‘I come to the garden of love’, with the audience singing along and inhabiting the harmonious spaces the songs created, there could not have been a better place to spend Valentine’s Day. Certainly not in the arms of human lovers who are prune to the frailties of breakups, unfaithfulness and other vices that make carnal love such a headache. And those who had their lovers, fiancés and fiancées or husbands and wives in their arms felt renewed in their responsibilities to each other that the love they so profess had been offered them unconditionally through the act of selfless love by Jesus Christ who came and died for them so their love could be made full.
And this was the difference. That while in other venues unrestrained revelries that satisfy mere carnal yearnings held sway, at The Pater’s Heritage the purpose of man being put on mother earth was re-enacted. That beyond the carnal man, there is also a spiritual man that needs to be catered for and nurtured through certain spiritual food.
BUT it wasn’t just the songs; there was drama also. A Love Triangle, also written and directed by Chiadika, played up some of the curious troubles plaguing the homes of many young couples, as they battle to contain the many conflicting emotions and tendencies that threaten to rip their marriages apart. Kenneth and Ada is a young couple living in the city. Their marriage is strained on many fronts. The initial love spark is gone and they are barely tolerating each other. Like most women, Ada resorts to nagging her husband; Kenneth takes the cue and stays out late and finds beer parlours a place of solace to avoid her. Also, their initial Christian fervour has waxed cold, as they are daily at each other’s throat.
The situation is not helped by the appearance of a charming neighbour, Doctor Abdul and a bachelor who shows Ada the attention and care she does not get from her husband. Abdul helps Ada from her car to her flat one evening with a sprain in her back when she fell in her office. That simple gesture sparks off tension in the home. Kenneth is not happy Ada allows herself into the arms of another man even if Ada needed the help. She is in pain and cannot even stand up and walk. Kenneth is not exactly the best sort of man; his laxity costs him his job to further compound their problem. He is saddled with having to take care of his wife at home and face her constant nagging. Her inability to bear children soon enough isn’t helping matters either.
Abdul becomes a regular feature at Ada’s side while the husband is away drinking himself to stupor. This gives him ideas; he senses Ada is lonely and seeks to fill the void in her heart. But just as he makes his move, Ada promptly puts him in check; she shoves him hard and rebukes him for taking advantage of a lonely and helpless woman. Abdul resorts to blackmail and informs her that her husband is making a pass at the canteen/beer parlour woman nearby. Kenneth returns home and owns up to his misdeed in front of Abdul and apologises to his wife. He also confesses to having turned the bend; he is now talking about Jesus to the said canteen woman and is close to converting her for Christ.
His attempt to also sway Abdul fails, as the doctor is so carnally-minded like the rest of the Valentine brood that anchors their fate on romance without Christ.
Although a simple plot structure that was also well executed, a few distractions marred A Love Triangle’s overall enjoyment. Scene changes took too long to happen. Static sounds from the body microphones also happened; external noise from backstage crew unknowingly speaking into microphones caused distractions for the audience. Lighting, too, left much to be desired. Although not exactly a purpose-built theatre, the producer and the cast and crew managed as best they could at PEFTI Hall. But having settled there, with its comfortable air-conditioning, The Pater’s Heritage performance group would do well to master its proper use and minimise the distractions that can possibly flow from it for the overall enjoyment of a theatrical production.
Although essentially an evangelistic, Christian outreach production for the propagation of the gospel, it would not be out of place to start charging an entrance fee to encourage the cast and crew and for continuity.