Blurring Realities: The Interactive Magic of 'Black Eye’

Jun 16, 2024

As the renowned playwright Oscar Wilde once said - “The stage is not merely the meeting place of all the arts, but is also the return of art to life.” 

This notion is perfectly embodied in "Black Eye," a play written by TofunmE Oyebode and Atilola Omotehinse, produced by Art N Soul Productions, and directed by Atilola Omotehinse.

Staged at the Wole Soyinka Theatre at the University of Ibadan, this performance infuses fresh creativity into the realm of digital theatre; a unique form of theatre that blends digital technology into traditional theatrical production, in Nigeria. "Black Eye" is a participatory theatre experience that blurs the lines between real life and performance. The play draws the audience into the turbulent world of Demola, who finds himself publicly accused of rape by his girlfriend, Diane. In a bold narrative twist, Demola turns to social media to tell his side of the story. He reveals that he believes he was coerced into sex by Diane, a claim he hesitates to define without public input.  His followers on social media aka live audience members thought it audacious for Damola to have come forward to debunk Diane's rape allegations. Questions like, “Who raped whomever first?”, “Can a lady rape a guy?” were raised. This dilemma unfolds on Instagram and Twitter or X, engaging the audience directly in the narrative. 

The play tackles themes, such as the complexities of consent and coercion, the lasting impact of childhood trauma, and the intricate relationship between abuse and love. The actors’ versatility is showcased as they seamlessly transition between multiple characters, each distinct yet occasionally overlapping—a subtle challenge that only the keenest observers might detect. A standout feature of the performance is the interactive part where the live audience joins in Demola's social media broadcasts, sharing their opinions on his situation in real time. This blurs the line between actor and audience, adding a unique energy to the experience and highlighting how social media shapes public opinion today. The production makes excellent use of music and lighting to enhance the storytelling, with instrumental scores providing a poignant backdrop to the unfolding drama. The set is minimalistic yet versatile; a single bed and chair that morph to represent various settings, while props are employed imaginatively to depict different characters and scenarios. However, the reliance on live Internet connectivity introduces potential pitfalls, as technical issues with network reception disrupted the seamless execution of the play. 

Regardless, "Black Eye" stands as a testament to the innovative spirit of contemporary Nigerian theatre, pushing boundaries and inviting audiences to reflect deeply on pressing social issues. "Black Eye," skillfully combines digital interaction with traditional theatre, challenging perceptions and showcasing the power of participatory performance.