By Kayode Faniyi
3some was more conservative in its approach. And its interests were more private than communitarian. 3someinvites you in, excites your capacity for sensation, requires your investment in what is unfolding on stage. Soon you find yourself urging this or that person on, castigating that other person. Broad sections of the audience even found the capacity to be repulsed—there were groans of disgust—by the hint of blossoming romance and sex between young man and far older woman.
3some leaves you breathless. No, it doesn’t snatch your breath away—there’s scarce sublimity on show here. 3some leaves you breathless in the way a marathon leaves its runner panting, thoroughly exhausted, looking for glucose, water, and the nearest surface upon which to collapse.
Its directorial vision has quite obviously been blurred by an over-dedication to smut, titillation pressed to the service of titillation, not of art. There are more twists here than a head full of Ghana braids. When mother, oblivious daughter and her newly cunning husband all end up under one roof, when the edges of the menage a trois—a superficial symbolism—are sutured shut, when it all ends somewhat happily-ever-after, when this dreary drama grinds to a halt, it is not catharsis we feel; no, this is exhaustion, thorough exhaustion, torpor even, and Lord are we grateful for the cast’s bow.
What stands out in this staple Nollywood fare is Daniel Effiong’s magnificent reprisal of Dayo, a manic Christian male married to Chioma, a naïve wife chafing under the discipline of her superego. Chioma has met her very own Christian Grey on Facebook and is flung headlong into her throes of resistance when Dayo discovers the sordid details of her unholy fantasies. We have lift off.
Chioma’s hysteric exit from her husband’s house ushers in her mother, bringing to light a transparently contrived sexual tension between mother and son-in-law. Discounting Chioma’s occasional incursions, this tension and its management is the crux of the matter; but it is the sheer energy of Dayo’s mania, the sheer incredulity of it, that drives this narrative forward.
As it happens, Effiong’s performance, his eclipsing of the play, is an indictment on the director’s vision, evidence that something has gone awry in his method. Per the synopsis in the festival booklet, 3some is to be centred on a mother-in-law’s discovery of sensuality in forbidden places. What we might then consider the “deadly secret” she “stumbles upon” is that the love she has for her son-in-law is requited, at least nominally. As it turns out, Dayo has only struck back at his wife’s subversion by sleeping with her mother, or something of the sort—the play is so convoluted one struggles to know what is what. Dayo is the runaway protagonist of this play; the mother’s marriage-saving struggles and earth-shattering “discoveries” are mere subplots submerged deep beneath the story of Dayo’s linear transformation along a patriarchal continuum.
3some’s failure grates. There was so much potential here. Take Chioma. Her restlessness, we learn via a throwaway comment from her mother, derives in part from an inability to maximize her intellectual potential—she’s a Master’s degree holder reduced by Dayo’s conservatism to a domestic fixture. Instead, her restlessness is reduced to a sexual frustration incited by Dayo’s sexual timidity, and she merely swaps one form of domination for another.
Shortly before seeing 3some, I’d seen The Marvelous Mrs.Maisel, an Amazon series in which Joe Maisel’s exit from their marriage pushes a punctilious Mrs. Maisel into recognising and exploring a comic career that had been her husband’s dream. Could Chioma have been more? Her naïveté unraveled, her itch for sexual adventure scratched red, the violence with which she rejected her husband tempered, Chioma returns home the same woman, to a husband whose repertoire of patriarchal conceits is now swelled by the darker art of bare-faced deceit.
In the final analysis, word of the smut will spread and people will troop, slack-jawed, to its allure like flies to rot. (The next day at work, I learnt from a colleague that a video clip of a scene featuring a completely naked woman had surfaced on Instagram.) Like its counterparts on screen, it has all the trappings of commercial “success”. 3some, one feels, is fish out of water on stage. Its natural habitat is on the center spread of a soft-sell.