#LTF2018: Panty Liners Considers Sex, Love And Marriage

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Panty Liners

From Kelvin Mary Ndukwe, the adventurous mind who conceived the twisty Sisi Pelebe, an audience favorite from last year’s festival, comes the adult themed follow up, Panty Liners, a funny, witty, meditation on female friendships, betrayal and sex in the big city.

Playing around with the site specific culture championed by the British Council in previous seasons of the Lagos Theatre Festival, Panty Liners, one of the six curated shows for this year’s festival, is nestled within the Grill Station at the Freedom Park where the audience can interact freely and feel like part of the action.

The barman, Akpan (Sammie Akpan) welcomes guests as they quietly make their way into the intimate ambience of the Grill Station. To make the setting more authentic, he enjoins that guests make themselves comfortable and order something from the menu. Not on the house of course.

Before long, three young ladies make their way in and make themselves comfortable at a table at the centre. The action is going to revolve around this center. One of the ladies is the delightful Kiki Omeili, an actress of stage and screen, with a background in Medicine. Omeili plays Adaugo, a self-made entrepreneur with feminist credentials who quit her highflying job after an untoward encounter with an abusive boss. It is Adaugo’s birthday and the three ladies have gathered for an evening of merriment.

Adaugo isn’t the most successful of the trio though. That would be Tinuke, (a believable Rhoda Albert) the free-wheeling, sexually adventurous business woman with a knack for making million Naira deals. Completing the threesome is Titi (Bunmi Sogade), the married woman whose prudish resistance is merely a cover for a storm raging internally.

When two or three adult ladies are gathered in Ndukwe’s world, the gist must turn to matters of the flesh and Panty Liners scores a major touch down in its first half, with frank depictions of sexual desire among young Nigerian women. The women unburden themselves freely, knowing that amongst themselves, judgement may come, but it is all in good natured fun.

Titi has sexual hang ups and hasn’t been intimate with her hubby for as long as they have been wedded. Adaugo has no time for love and chooses to interface with her lovers, on her own terms while the lovable Tinuke just wants to find a woman to go down on her the way that no man has been able to manage in all her years of circling the block. From time to time, they get too loud and Adaugo has to graciously apologize to the audience on their behalf. She needn’t have bothered. The audience was lapping up all the gossip unashamedly.

If there is anything conservative Nigerian society needs, it is a healthy shot of frank, honest conversations about taboo topics such as sex. And these ladies go all the way, with talk about girl on girl action, use of sexual stimulants and discarding partners as soon as they begin to bore. They even throw in twerking moves to make things really interesting.

It would all be so empowering if Ndukwe didn’t feel the need to do his bit of social commentary.

It isn’t lasciviousness just for the sake of it when weighty topics such as sexual abuse and violence against women are introduced into the fray and sexual deviations are traced back to childhood abuse. Ndukwe makes sure to stay on the right side of the law, lest members of the moral police accuse him of promoting licentious behavior. Even liberal South Africa got a taste of this righteous control when the Oscar shortlisted, gay themed film, Inxeba (The Wound) was classified as porn by the country’s Film and Publication board.

Eating your cake and keeping it comes with its own set of problems. By the final act, Panty Liners begins to drag as the revelations pour forth and threaten to overshadow the lighthearted fun of the first half. The production does well to shine a light on social issues but at what cost? The entire architecture does not quite recover from this attempt at infantilizing the audience.

The play’s title refers to the absorbent material usually worn by ladies in the gusset of heir panties to amongst other things, absorb genital discharges. It isn’t quite fair that Panty Liners in the end, resorts to clichés and safe landings.

This audience was doing just fine taking it all in.

Wilfred Okiche

Wilfred Okiche

Wilfred Okiche is a movie buff and music head. He is still waiting for that one record that will change his life and remains ever optimistic. You can follow him on Twitter @drwill20

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