A stage adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman is currently playing at The Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. It will run until October 29th.
Ghanaian-born Canadian actor and playwright Tawiah M’Carthy is the director, with Anthony Santiago starring as Elesin Oba, Amaka Umeh as the Praise-Singer, Graham Abbey as Simon Pilkings, Kwaku Adu-Poku as Olunde, and Akosua Amo-Adem Iyaloja.
Death and the King‘s Horseman, published in 1975, is one of Soyinka’s most celebrated plays. Set in the 1940s, it tells the story of Elesin Oba, the king’s horseman, who fails to fulfill his duty of ritual suicide following the death of the king. His failure sets in motion a series of events that sends the Yoruba world careening into cultural and metaphysical rupture. The play is a dazzling political drama exploring themes of power, colonialism, individualism, and collective survival.
The play at the Stratford Festival brings Soyinka’s vision of the past to life with a creative team that includes notable figures in the Nigerian theatre art and design scene. Dramaturge Wolé Oguntokun, Music Director and Composer Adékúnlé Olórundáre, and Costume Designer Sarah Uwadiae are part of the production team that helped bring Soyinka’s re-imagination of Yoruba royalty and the colonial era to life through dance, music, and thoughtfully-designed sets and costume.
The Stratford Festival is one of Canada’s most prominent art festivals. Though it is known for its staging of Shakespeare plays, it has broadened its offerings over the decades, with Death and King’s Horseman its first modern work.
This adaptation speaks to a global revival of interest in the play. Netflix will release a film adaptation of the play later this year. These adaptations of the play introduce it to new audiences, who get to experience Soyinka’s complex weaving of drama, political intrigue, and cultural commentary. Anthony Santiago, who plays Elesin Oba in the Stratford Festival adaptation, said in a press statement that the play is impactful for the many ways it tackles complex issues and poses difficult questions without providing “easy answers.”
The play opened on August 27 and will run until October 29th. Go here for tickets or call 1.800.567.1600.