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Title: Is theatre dying in Nigeria? : recycling popular theatre in metropolitan Lagos
Author: Cheng, Ying
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 0724
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines the transformation of popular theatre culture in urban Nigeria since the early 1990s, a period when almost all the more than one hundred Yorùbá travelling theatres "disappeared" from the public or switched over to making films. Unlike the pessimistic laments of "theatre is dead in Nigeria" among theatre scholars and critics, the argument here resists the anxiety about the "decline" of theatre in Nigeria. Based on an examination of theatre practices by a younger generation of theatre practitioners, especially a ghetto based youth theatre troupe - Crown Troupe of Africa, I argue that popular theatre in Nigeria has been transformed into a culture practice marked by fantastic entrepreneurial spirit, strong space-making consciousness and radical sociopolitical commitment. As a peripheral site of mobility and sociality, theatre in Nigeria has become a platform for opening up critical debates on the uses of public space, and for forging radical politics among young theatre practitioners and their audiences. More specifically, by interpreting theatre as a spatial practice, I suggest a new way of inserting theatre studies into popular culture studies and urban studies in Africa. The thesis engages with the complexity of the concepts and theorizations in these scholarly areas and contributes to debates around the subversive and resistance potential of popular culture and its role in the constitution of urban publics. Aware of the risk of over-celebrating the creative agency of the marginal urban youths my thesis documents and analyses, I root my understanding of these concepts in the everyday life and the living reality of these popular culture practitioners. I argue that the contemporary popular theatre's intervention in the public sphere is grounded in the intimate and mobile geographies of space-making across the megacity. I suggest that the concept of "recycling" provides a useful metaphor in understanding the deep embedding of popular culture in urban space. The young ghetto performers recycle their everyday experiences, ordinary objects, daily languages, and their knowledge of other artistic forms, and transform these elements into theatrical works that enable and negotiate a re-appropriation of the city. At the same time, the trope of recycling also reveals that, rather than a radical departure from or a rupture with traditional art forms such as the Yorùbá travelling theatres, Crown Troupe's transformation of Nigerian popular culture should be interpreted a process of continuation and regeneration.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral