by Azeezat Fadekemi Sulaiman
As part of the events scheduled to highlight the realities women face during conflict, the Royal Court Theatre staged a reading of ‘Liberian Girl’, a play by Nigerian playwright Diana Nneka Atouna.
The play revolves around the story of a young girl ‘Martha’, from the start of the Liberian war through till the end of the bitter battle between Charles Taylor and ECOMOG forces.
Atuona won the Alfred Fagon Award for the play in 2013, while still unproduced. She attended the Royal Court’s Peckham Writers Group, as part of Theatre Local – the Royal Court’s project to take plays to alternative spaces, sponsored by Bloomberg.
Described as a reading, the temporary theatre erected to accommodate the audience for the exclusive screening was full to capacity as a fair mix of ethnicities attended the screening with the hope of gleaning some insight into what life is like for women in war zones.
I have to say that the stage setting; expectedly modest, but true to the African culture with a backdrop of African props was a subtle hint that this would be no ordinary reading.
The play begins with Martha on the verge of being prepared to be initiated into ‘womanhood’ by her grand mother whom she lived with at the time, only for tragedy to strike as the Liberian war breaks, throwing the family into turmoil.
Martha, only a girl at the time experiences unspeakable horrors as she struggles through death, violence and atrocities that were part of a brutal war where women were treated with as much dignity as animals.
The war leaves scars on the girl whose dream was to go to school and grow up to become a confident and self-sufficient woman.
This was no reading. The acting and talent on display on the night were astounding. The pace was spot on and I know I wasn’t the only one in the audience who was so drawn into the story that for several moments, I was transported to that particular moment in time in Liberia, and you could feel and experience everything young Martha experienced.
A moving story beautifully told, so poignant in fact that the story stayed with me hours after the play had finished, such was the beauty of the acting.
Diana Nneka Atouna is quite literally a genius in my books….watch out for this one.