Sub categories: African literature, drama, theatre
Author: Wole Soyinka
About: District Officer Pilkings has a habit of sticking his nose in where it has no business, but then again so do most colonial masters. District Officer Pilkings, however, should know better than to stick his nose in the business of sacred traditional African rites. Customs demand that upon the death of Oba, the Horseman to the King must proudly end his earthly life and join his master in the life after. Elesin Oba is a proud man from a proud lineage who is unwavering in his belief and practice of his proud tradition. On what is to be his final day as a man Elesin Oba looks forward, with pride, to facing death. But District Officer Pilkings, he has a habit of sticking his nose in where it has no business.
Thoughts: from the legend himself, this play exudes grandeur from cover to cover (and even some classic cockiness in the foreword from the author). Endeavour to look beyond the obvious conflict and you will find a deeper core conflict that expresses the raging battles of man with man, life, death, culture, mysticism, and the beyond.
About: a widowed woman, perhaps not sadly so. A spiteful ghost, perhaps rightly so. A clueless lover, perhaps wisely so.
Thoughts: the master of metaphysical poetry will send chills up your spine with this haunting piece. The pacing of the words is… let’s just say, to die for. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself supporting the ghost.
About: Phaedra, wife of Theseus, king of Athens, step-mother to Hippolytus. Seeded deep in Phaedra’s heart is a dark secret: an uncontrollable love, lust even, which she has for her step-son Hippolytus. When word arrives Athens that Theseus has died at the war front, Phaedra seizes the opportunity to feed her desire and confesses to Hippolytus her passion for him. Hippolytus spurns her. But that is least of Phaedra’s worries because word reaches Athens once again that Theseus is actually alive and making his way back home. And Hippolytus wishes to speak with his father, urgently.
Thoughts: written during the French renaissance, this is one of the most heart-rending, thought-provoking plays you will ever read. A true renaissance classic. Available for free in most online libraries (if you can’t find it in a bookshop). Readers may be unfamiliar with historical and cultural references so don’t be shy to research for clarity where necessary.
A minimalist design which aspires to express the classic simplicity of African artistry while simultaneously providing a neutral palette to capture multitudes of expressions. Notice how the “ent.” takes up the position of Madagascar?