by David Osairemen
Allow your imaginations fly with me. Imagine a hall, a small party hall set in the bustling city of Lagos. Think, a pristine, upscale penthouse. At the centre of this small party hall is a table, a large dinner table, carved from shiny mahogany. Around this table are chairs. In those chairs save one are movie stars. The silver-screen darlings, the crème de la crème, the shining symbols of Nigerian cinema.
In no particular order: Richard, smiling into his phone, causing riot online with his killer pictures; Ireti, chewing on gum, scanning the room; Shaggi, uncharacteristically calm; Ini, the belle of the ball, smiling with a glow; Dakore, arguing with her driver over the phone; Osas, taking her 234th selfie with Ini.
Dakore ends her call. Ireti takes one final scan of the faces in the room. She doesn’t want to be here. Her eyes fall on the empty chair. Someone is not here…yet. Just then, Nancy comes skipping down, almost missing a step. But she catches her step and settles in just fine. Phew! Close call.
Nancy: Hey guys!
Ireti turns to the others…
Ireti: What’s Nancy doing here? This is not a TV show.
Osas does the honours of acquainting Nancy.
Osas: Nancy, this is an actors-on-actors roundtable…
Nancy (cuts in): I know that. I’m the moderator.
Ireti (under her breath): Just perfect.
Nancy: So, I’m sure we all follow ourselves on Instagram. Let’s skip the niceties and dive right in. For starters, we all are supposed to…
Ireti: It’s “you all” not “we all”.
Nancy: I’d appreciate it if no one interrupts me.
Ireti: You’re the moderator. “You all” is more appropriate.
Nancy declines the urge to raze holy hell. No, not today.
Nancy: Fine. For starters, YOU ALL are supposed to talk about one of your most difficult experiences yet, as actors.
Richard: What is this? Therapy?
Dakore raises a hand.
Dakore: I’ll go first.
Nancy: Thank you, Dakore.
Dakore on Fifty: No one knows about this but after I played the role of a fifty-year old woman in Fifty, I felt old. Really old. I still have PTSD playing that role. I never want to get old. I never want to lose all this.
You guessed right, tears start to fall like rain.
Ireti: Awww. You get perspective at 50, dear. I’m 53. I don’t feel 53. I feel 35…only a bit squidgy at the edges sometimes. But you’ll be fine.
Dakore’s rain of tears become torrents. Osas hands her a handkerchief.
Richard: That was unnecessary, Ireti.
Ireti: I was only trying to help.
Nancy: Who’s next?
Nancy: You don’t have to stand, please sit.
Shaggi sits back down.
Shaggi: Good afternoon everyone.
Wait, what?!. Something’s off. Even Dakore stops crying.
Shaggi on All his films: I’ve had difficult moments in as many films I’ve worked on. Most writers find it difficult to write my lines. I practically struggle piecing my lines together, for every film.
Silence. Everyone’s agape. No way! This cannot be the hyperactive, hot-headed, pidgin-wielding Shaggi! Murmurs start to fly around. Shaggi is confused.
We catch Osas and Ini in a whisper:
Ini: Is this really Shaggi?
Osas: Of course he is, Shaggi is a graduate. Widely read. I heard he declined two scholarships abroad to pursue comedy.
Ini: You don’t say!
Osas: I heard o. Inside gist.
Nancy quiets the ruckus.
Nancy: Thank you for that shockingly amazing discovery, Shaggi. Next please?
Osas clears her throat.
Osas on Ratnik: My most difficult experience yet was playing the lead in Ratnik.
Dakore: What’s Ratnik?
Osas: Ratnik is a science fiction movie…
Richard: Sci-fi? (to Nancy) Are we allowed to talk about Hollywood films? (back to Osas) Were you in a Hollywood film?
Osas: No! Ratnik is a purely Nollywood film.
Dakore: Was it ever released?
Osas: Yes, it was. Months after the lockdown. Before that, It won several awards at the 2020 AMVCAs.
Everyone choruses a soft “ohhhhhh”. They get it now.
Osas: Nobody watched Ratnik?
Scratch of heads here and there. Osas is bothered.
Nancy cuts in.
Nancy: Alright! Moving on.
Ireti: My turn.
Nancy (a sleek roll of eyes): Of course.
Ireti: Nancy, if you have something to say, just say it.
Nancy: I don’t.
Ireti on DOD: Good!… Well, ehm. I’ve been in this game long enough to have several rough moments. I’ll just pick a recent one. Day of Destiny or D.O.D by two young directors. Frankly, I had no idea what we were doing until the directors explained to me, after we finished shooting.
Dakore: Old age.
Ireti: Excuse me? (to Nancy) Is she allowed to say that to me?
Dakore: It’s a time-travel film. Not rocket science.
Ireti turns to Ini.
Ireti: Ini, you played the younger me in the film. Did you understand any of it?
All eyes on Ini. She nods “yes” slightly, trying not to be rude.
Dakore bursts out laughing.
Dakore: So much for feeling 35. Excuse me ma, old age is catching up with you.
Ireti looks around. Deflated. She’s lost this one. She grabs her bag…
Ireti: I will not be insulted.
…and she storms out.
Nancy: Whew! That escalated quickly.
Richard: Women. Shioor.
Nancy: Who’s next? Richard?
Richard: Let Ini do hers.
Nancy: Alright, Ini.
Ini on Namaste Wahala: Hi everyone. I’m Ini… To be precise, I don’t think I’ve had difficult moments, none that I can remember. I’ve had sweet, likable roles. I’ll just share one of my sweetest moments yet. Kissing Raj in Namaste Wahala was heavenly. He’s a very good kisser. I don’t except any of you to know that, except of course you’ve kissed a fine, Indian man before.
She giggles. No one’s listening except Nancy who manages a blink and a weak smile. Shaggi is texting his latest skit idea to his crew. Richard is smiling into his phone again. Dakore fixes her makeup. And Osas is still bothered no one watched Ratnik.
Nancy: Richard, your turn.
Richard on Wedding Party 1: Oh, is she done? That was quick… Well ehm, difficult moments yet, hmmm, let’s see. There’s so many to choose from. Oh, there’s this funny one. It happened on Wedding Party 1. I remember having a heated argument with the director, Kemzy, why there wasn’t enough small chops to go around.
Nancy: Small chops, you mean canapes.
Richard: Small chops.
Nancy: That’s canapes. The samosa, spring rolls…
Dakore, still tending her makeup, cuts in.
Dakore: Don’t sweat it, Nancy. Not that small chops. We all watched the film, we know what he’s talking about.
Richard turns in his chair. Uncomfortable.
Richard: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Dakore: Let’s pretend you actually don’t.
Richard: I think I’m done here. It was nice hanging out with you guys. But I have to be somewhere.
Nancy: No, wait…
Dakore: Of course you have to be somewhere. Small chops calling. KPK!
Dakore belts a mocking giggle.
Richard walks out. Mumbling words only he understands.
Nancy: Richard, we’re not done!
Osas finally airs her grief.
Osas (to Ini): Ini, did you watch Ratnik?
Ini hoped and prayed that question never came up.
Osas: Don’t lie to me..
Ini: I really tried to. My schedules at the time were tight.
Osas: And you call yourself my friend.
Osas grabs her bag and runs out, sobbing.
Ini: Osas! Wait!
Ini runs after her.
Shaggi drags a hiss, shoots up from his chair and heads for the exit.
Shaggi: Be like say all of una dey mad for here.
Yep! that’s our Shaggi.
Dakore (to Shaggi): Excuse me?! Mind your language!
Shaggi: Eeees! Hello? Aunty, mind your age.
And… he’s out.
Dakore’s face stiffens with disgust.
Dakore: I’m not old!!! (to Nancy) Did you hear what he said to me? You just sat there and did nothing. Moderator my foot.
Nancy is helpless.
Dakore dials her phone cursing and swearing at her driver to come pick her up. With that, she storms out.
Nancy is alone. What went wrong?
Nancy: We’ve not even reached the interesting part yet. (checks her phone) It says here that actors are to reveal what they like and dislike about one another.
She remembers something, turns and screams at the door.
Nancy: Guys, we were supposed to take a group picture!
Too late. Go home, Nancy. Show’s over.
NB: This is purely fiction. The scenarios and exchanges presented here never occured… Enjoy!