Death and the King’s Horseman

Went to see this play by Nobel-prize-winning Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka at the National Theatre, and it was fantastic. I don’t go to the theatre very often, but if I could see more plays like this I’d go all the time.

It’s a story set in Nigeria in 1943, about the clash between traditional Nigerian customs and the disastrous attempts of the British colonial forces to ‘stamp out’ practices that they didn’t understand.

It’s also a very moving story about the king’s horseman who, by tradition, must kill himself to accompany the recently-deceased king on his final journey. We see him going through his final day, facing up to his coming death. Then the action switches to the British district commissioner and his wife (played, in a great reversal, by black actors in ‘white face’). That the commissioner will try to interfere with the horseman’s suicide is obvious, but the ultimate resolution contains plenty of surprises. The final scene, particularly, had me gripped, largely due to the fantastic acting of Nonso Anozie in the lead role.

It’s on a short run – closes on the 17th – but if you live in London I’d recommend going to see this if you possibly can.