Nigeria has produced icons of leadership – people who in one way or the other, have left marks of excellence and productivity. One of Nigeria’s daughters who have shined a positive spotlight on the country is Bolanle Austen-Peters. A woman who has spent the better part of her life carving a name for herself in Nigeria’s movie and theatre industry.
BAP, as she is largely called, through her production company has brought several fascinating and enthralling plays to the stage. In 8 years of founding her production company, BAP has given us 7 staged plays that were nothing short of excellent. As well as 2 released movies and one scheduled to hit the big screens soon.
After her plays got an amazing reception in Nigeria, it was not shocking that the rest of the world wanted a bit of her magic. Plays like Saro The Musical, Wakaa! The Musical, and Fela And The Kalakuta Queens were BAP’s masterpieces that were performed outside the shores of Nigeria. And each one received massive recognition and positive reviews, especially Fela And The Kalakuta Queens Musical.
It is no wonder she was on the list of Forbes Africa 100 Most Influential Women in Africa for 3 consecutive years.
Bolanle Austen-Peters took London by storm with two of her productions – Saro The Musical and Wakaa! The Musical. After successful performances in Lagos and across Nigeria at the time of their productions, both plays made it to London where they also received accolades.
Saro The Musical
After leaving Nigerians in awe, Saro The Musical gave the Nigerian entertainment industry international recognition when it was staged in London in 2017. The play was the very first musical of Nigerian origin that was performed at the Shaw Theatre and West End Theatre.
Bolanle Austen-Peters, in partnership with the MTN Foundation, journeyed her play to London where the performance was crowned with a standing ovation from the impressed audience. The 3 lead actors – Kunle Afolayan, Bimbo Manuel, and Gideon Okeke as a part of a hundred-man crew, brought BAP’s vision to life with so much professionalism.
Saro The Musical is the story of 4 young men who wish to defy all goods and attain success. The musical tells their story as they strive to leave their lowly villages to journey to the land of opportunities – Lagos. They go through various hurdles, fight many battles, and garner a wealth of experience in their pursuit of success and love.
The story is one that most Nigerians can relate with, so it did not come as a shock when throngs of Nigerians in the diaspora came out in their numbers to see the play and support one of their own. But not just Nigerians, because the theatres were packed with the English who also testified of BAP’s productive genius.
Wakaa! The Musical
In 2016, CNN announced “It’s big, it’s bold and it’s politically charged. Brace yourselves: “Wakaa!! The Musical” is coming”. The announcement heralded the coming Bolanle Austen-Peters’ of Wakaa! The Musical to London.
The Musical is the story of 6 friends who come from varied backgrounds. On their graduation, they made a bet to one another to emerge successful in their individual fields. Wakaa! is easily described as a political satire and it highlights the various struggles that are faced by Nigerians in their own country and abroad.
The success that BAP achieved with this hit production is no small feat, and international media houses did not hesitate to sing her praises. The show was so good when it first played in Lagos, so much so that according to BAP, people offered to pay the ticket fee just to stand in the aisles.
As a testimony to Bolanle’s amazing storytelling skills and production, the tickets for Wakaa! were sold out when it made its debut in London.
Fela And The Kalakuta Queens Musical is one of Bolanle Austen-Peters’ most celebrated works. Telling the story of the Nigerian Icon and the amazing women who stood by him through thick and thin, BAP was able to use the stage as a medium to unveil the truth about the life of Fela and the Kalakuta Queens.
The musical gained global recognition and went from the Nigerian stage to showing in Cairo, Egypt as well as South Africa. The award-winning musical got so many accolades because of the amount of work Austen-Peters put into uncovering the true story behind the Afrobeats icon.
Shunning mediocrity and half-baked efforts, the storyteller cum producer did her research and put together a world-class crew to inform the world of her findings about the musical genius and political activist – Fela and his loyal queens.
Like London, Bolanle Austen-Peters made quite an impression on the good people of Pretoria, South Africa. After a successful showing of Fela And The Kalakuta Queens Musical in Lagos, the play became the first Nigerian production to gain an audience in South Africa.
But due to the disruptions caused by the Covid -19 pandemic, the movie did not play in a theatre with a live audience. Rather, it was shown live on the Youtube channel of the South African State Theatre. This was the first time a Nigerian production company would play on this SA online platform and monetizing it.
According to BAP, “in these unusual times, our products have transited to the new norm, showing us that theatre and excellence have no boundaries. The partnership is a first of its kind where Nigeria and South African jointly present a Nigerian product for international consumption. It is also commendable that as theatre struggles in this COVID season, we are able to monetize theatrical content online. We look forward to future partnerships.”
Bolanle Austen-Peters is a force in the industry and the accolades she has received worldwide are evidence of that fact. Her productions have traveled to some parts of the world and she works to reach more countries. For BAP, Nigeria is rich in culture and art, and what better way to share it with the world than to tell them stories that show these richness.