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Can The National Theatre Return To Its Glory Days? - Culture - Nairaland

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Can The National Theatre Return To Its Glory Days? by gideonjeta(m): 12:57am On Jun 05, 2018
The “architectural masterpiece ” that is the National Arts Theatre was built in 1976 as the primary centre for the performing arts. It boasts a 5 ,000 -seater main hall with a collapsible stage and two cinema halls . It was also one of the four main venues for the landmark Festival of Arts and Culture ( FESTAC ) in 1977 .

Forty years later, The National Theatre is no longer regarded as one of the top homes for the performing arts in Lagos . Its position as the national culture hub has since been claimed by the likes of Terra Kulture , Freedom Park , and the MUSON Centre. The space has gradually devolved into a meeting venue for Lagos branch gatherings of development unions. It also may or may not host occasional low budget theatre productions .
What happened to this national treasure?
First was the failure to plan. The government must have never accounted for the performing arts growing into the force that it is today . Think of Bolanle Austen-Peters’s production company which has created sold out shows like SARO The Musical and Wakaa The Musical home and abroad .
There have been rumours of handing the theatre over to private conglomerates to convert it into shopping malls and hospitality spots. Yet , these plans have never materialised. In 2010 , former President Olusegun Obasanjo ’s plans to privatise the theatre received pushback from patrons like Wole Soyinka .
In December 2017, this idea floated once again , this time , as hushed talks that the federal government was going to hand over the property to Lagos state for renovation. Six months after , the imposing edifice is still mostly empty and without activity .
There is also the non -existent maintenance culture, especially as regards public infrastructure . This national failing can be seen in other popular locations in the country . Iconic venues like The National Stadium in Surulere , which also played host to the activities of FESTAC 1977, remains in a very poor state . It has now replaced by The Godswill Akpabio International Stadium , which has become the go- to venue for all international matches . Case in point is the friendly between the Super Eagles and Atletico Madrid .

The unfortunate thing is that people are in charge of these institutions and huge sums are probably allocated annually for maintenance . Until there is a system that holds people in office accountable for monies allocated , nothing is likely to change .
There have also been reports of people suffering violent attacks while attempting to access these facilities .

After identifying these problems , what next ?
The government has to invest in the arts and culture space . The industry is a potential money maker, capable of generating millions of naira to boost the economy . But , to harvest these gains , monies have to be sown in the first place . Not just in talent and infrastructure , but also in maintenance and capacity building .
Square pegs must be placed in appropriate holes and government must entrust the facilities in the hands of people committed to the arts and its development . A functional and renovated theatre will be a catalyst for the booming film and music industry and will help the theatre industry move to greater heights .
There is a lot of work to be done , no doubt, to return The National Theatre to its glory days and the rewards of such an endeavour are endless.


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