A stage performance of one of Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka’s most celebrated works, ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’, is currently playing at The Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada.
The stage performance is directed by Ghanaian-born Canadian actor and playwright, Tawiah M’Carthy, with Anthony Santiago starring as Elesin Oba. Amaka Umeh is the Praise-Singer while Graham Abbey is Simon Pilkings. Kwaku Adu-Poku and Akosua Amo-Adem are Olunde and Iyaloja, respectively.
Published in 1975, ‘Death and the King‘s Horseman’ explores themes of power, colonialism, individualism, and collective survival. The political drama 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 Stratford Festival is one of Canada’s most prominent art festivals. Though known for its staging of Shakespeare plays, it has broadened its offerings over the decades, with the adaptation being its first modern work.
Netflix is expected to release a film adaptation of the play, Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman, directed by the late Biyi Bandele, in November.
The film, produced by Nigeria’s EbonyLife Studios, had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last month.
The 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 release 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 is expected to run till October 29, 2022.