It was the evening of the Kaduna reading on 17th December.
My hosts at Purple Silver wanted me an hour after the advertised time, to sync with Kaduna’s ‘African time’ and arrive to a full house. But I like to start my events on the advertised time. If we have two guests on time, we begin… (and that, only because a reading to one person sounds more like a romantic scenario). At the end of the evening, we did have a full house, but we had fun from the outset. My first two guests, by a fair margin, were two sisters from the same household.
I am Firdausi Mohamed, said sister one.
I am Firdausi Mohamed, said sister two.
Are you sure? I asked. They were. Which is the unfair thing about real life: if I wrote a story in which a father named his two daughters ‘Paradise’ it would have been dismissed out of hand as straining credibility. But real life dads? They have total freedom. Apart from an identical first name, the Firdausi sisters also shared a love for acting, although the rest of the troupe had failed to turn up for their last rehearsal. So I introduced them to the monologue, a dramatic genre they could rehearse and perform all by their punctual selves… And since there were two Firdausis, I suggested, how about trying out a dialogue? So saying, I pulled out my anthology, How to Spell Naija in 100 Short Stories (Vol.1), which conveniently has a number of dramatic dialogues disguised as short stories. I chose Bloody Benjy for my 12-minute directorial debut in Kaduna and without so much as a read-through of the story, threw the poor sisters in at the deep end.
I have video evidence too: in the clip you can see here, a spare parts dealer is trying to explain to his friend how he bought a priceless Ben Enwonwu painting for a song. Apparently, the original owner had gotten drunk on VSOP brandy and cooked his wife’s pet dog, Whiskey. (I know that the ‘brandy/Whiskey’ combination strains credibility, but not quite as blatantly as two Firdausis…right?) The poor wife had enjoyed the dogstew (aka 404), before discovering her pet’s head in the dustbin… so she sold her husband’s precious painting for peanuts in revenge… but the Firdausis can take it from here…
We went on to have a riot of an evening with The Extinction of Menai, but Bloody Benjy managed to sneak in a flash drama.
Because when you arrive promptly to a Chuma Nwokolo event, you might end up the star turn of the evening.