‘Playing Queen Moremi allows me to get in touch with my inner soul’

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‘Playing Queen Moremi allows me to get in touch with my inner soul’

• ‘Moremi’s legendary role gives voice to women’

Writer and performing artist, Kehinde Bankole, has featured in several movie productions in the past, but her role as the lead actor in the much-anticipated Broadway-style musical theatre from Bolanle Austen-Peters Production stable, Moremi the Musical, is a different terrain entirely for her. She is being challenged to bring all her artistry to bear in the engaging production, which performance starts on Friday, with Royal Performance scheduled for Sunday, December 23, with Ooni of Ife gracing it.

“What I love most about playing this role is the fact that I get to sing, dance, act, and perform at the same time,” she says. “I also like the fact that I get to express the inner me that the modern day would not allow me. It is allowing me to get in touch with my inner soul that is suppressed during my everyday life.”

Starring alongside giants of Nigerian movie industry such as Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Femi Branch, Bimbo Manuel and Kunle Afolayan, Bankole relishes the experience of the production, which she describes as taking its toll on her physically and emotionally, adding, “It has been wonderful. Many people often say, ‘oh, it’s been great. Oh, it’s been amazing,’ as just the regular things that naturally come to you, but in actual fact, it has been very beautiful.

“I’ve been exposed to all sorts of beautiful people with diverse skills. Even though the role comes with its own complexities, the direction of Austen-Peters has made it easy for us all; she has a way of easing you into the role without stressing you. There will be dancing and music in the show; so, it promises to be a full and invigorating performance.”

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Artistic productions are meant to pass across messages in addition to entertaining the audience. Moremi The Musical, being an adaptation of the legends of the Yoruba queen, Moremi Ajasoro, whose exploits in a dominant patriarchal society, presents the audience with some important lessons that can help the society, according to Bankole. She believes Moremi’s story can impact the society today as it did when the event happened by encouraging men to allow women take leadership roles in the society.

For her, Moremi’s feat “empowers us women; it inspires us to say if Moremi could do it then, when there was no technology, and no communication, why can’t we? We have so many things aiding us now to be better and stronger women. This story encourages women to explore the boundaries of possibility, encourages women to try new things, and make themselves available for roles in leadership, politics, etc.”

Bankole also feels Moremi’s role in the liberation of Ile-Ife, the cradle of Yoruba civilization, was important in giving a voice to women as it paved the way for women empowerment.

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“If that community wasn’t saved by Moremi in the first place, women t wouldn’t even have a voice,” she says. “It goes to show that the little things you do today might have so many positive implications in the future. There is an Ooni there now, and there is a university there. There is so much happening there now.”

A characteristic of the queen, which, according to Bankole, is important in her remarkable exploit, is meekness, noting, “I believe there is a certain type of meekness covered in strength, strength rooted in calmness, not bullying.”She says she shares that characteristic with the heroine, Bankole also reveals that her interest in politics is also in concert with that of the legendary queen.

“I love anything that has to do with politics,” she avers, “I love peace. I love culture, and Queen Moremi strived for our people’s freedom. I share that in common with her, as I am a strong woman. I didn’t see Moremi, not even in my dream, but I’d like to believe that I do share something physically in common with her.”

Bankole also states that she does not have a single person she looks up to in the movie industry. Instead, she looks up to many of the notable movie stars from whom she learns everyday.“In the business, it will be difficult to pick just one person,” she says. “I have picked up from people like Viola Davis, Mercy Johnson, Funke Akindele, and Angela Bassett. You learn every day from several people everywhere to be very honest.”

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Much is certainly expected from the performance of Moremi The Musical, not least because of the production team and the cast. While Bankole believes the audience would get value for its money when the show opens this Friday, with a Coomand Performance on Sunday, December 23, she says the audience would also see the difference between Moremi the Musical and other artistic productions.

“I want them (audience) to take all the things I’ve said,” she insists, “but additionally I want them to know that stage plays are very effective in communicating certain messages. Unlike the other mediums, stage plays are quite effective as they show an expression of real life. You can see the person, you can feel him or her; there’s no make-believe, and you can even touch the person.”

Stage acts like Moremi The Muscial would also serve to put live theatre production into deserving spotlight, and Bankole hopes Nigerians would appreciate theatre productions the more, noting, “I just want them to believe in this type of entertainment again.”The promising actress also reveals her inspirational ritual whenever she wants to go on stage: “I speak to myself. I tell myself to calm down, and to just relax. Self-motivation is a very important part of my mantra!”

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