The Lion and the Jewel By Wole Soyinka



The Lion and the Jewel By Wole Soyinka
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The Lion and the Jewel
By Wole Soyinka
Co-produced by Collective Artistes,
the Young Vic and BITE:05, Barbican as part of YOUNG GENIUS
First performed at the Oxford Playhouse on 13 September 2005
as part of YOUNG GENIUS
Funders of the YOUNG GENIUS Schools’ Programme across the UK,
including workshops, performance projects and free tickets for
school students and teachers
YOUNG GENIUS would not have been possible without the generous support of The Esmée Fairbairn
Foundation, The Corporation of London, Arts Council England Grants for the Arts, Ingenious Media plc,
The Jerwood Charity, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Genesis Foundation and NESTA.
Resource Pack
Wole Soyinka’s Life and Work
Table of Key Dates
A Brief Synopsis and Background to The Lion and the Jewel 5
Theatre in Wole Soyinka’s Nigeria
Social and Historical Context
Interview with the Director Chuck Mike
Design Images
Creative Team and Cast
About the Young Genius Season
Bibliography and Further Reading
If you have any comments or questions about this Resource Pack, please contact us:
The Young Vic, Chester House, 1-3 Brixton Road, London SW9 6DE
T: 0207 922 2800
F: 0207 820 3355
E: [email protected]
Written by Maria Aberg
With additional material researched by Victoria Shaskan
© Young Vic 2005
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Wole Soyinka’s Life and Work
Oluwole Akivande Soyinka was born on the 13th of July 1934 in Abeokuta in Western Nigeria,
at the time still a British colony. His father Ayo was a school supervisor and his mother Eniola
a shopkeeper, both well-respected members of the local community. Although Soyinka was
brought up in an English-speaking, Christian environment, his parents belonged to the
Yoruba tribe, and the family often visited the father’s ancestral home in Ísará, a traditional
Yoruban community.
When Soyinka was twelve, he went to Ibadan to study at the prestigious Government
College, and at 18 he enrolled at the city’s new university. After two years, he moved to
England to study English Literature at the University of Leeds, where he specialised in drama
tutored by the distinguished Shakespeare critic G Wilson Knight. In 1957 Soyinka received
his BA and enrolled for a Masters degree, but abandoned it to work in the theatre.
He moved to London and started working as a script-reader for the Royal Court Theatre, and
a year later produced his first play, The Swamp-Dwellers, at the University of London Drama
Festival. During his involvement with the Royal Court, he also wrote work for their regular
one-night ‘productions without décor’, in which he also acted. Meanwhile, both The SwampDwellers and his new play, The Lion and The Jewel, were produced in his native Ibadan.
In 1960, Soyinka received a Rockefeller grant which enabled him to return to Nigeria to study
African drama. He founded a theatre company, 1960 Masks, for whom he both directed and
acted in several productions of his own plays. In 1962 he was appointed lecturer in English at
the University of Ife, and at around the same time, he also started to write critical and satirical
commentary on the political situation in Western Nigeria.
Over the next few years Soyinka continued to write and direct a wide range of plays, from
comedies to politically minded plays. He also organised an improvisational ‘guerrilla theatre’,
wrote for radio and television, and published both his first novel and his first collection of
poetry. In 1966, The Lion and The Jewel was produced at the Royal Court Theatre, and
Soyinka shared the annual John Whiting Award with playwright Tom Stoppard.
In 1967, during the Nigerian civil war, Soyinka wrote an article in which he proposed a ceasefire. For this, he was accused of sympathising with the Biafran rebels, and imprisoned for
treason for nearly two years. Soyinka spent much of his prison time in solitary confinement,
and has described his traumatic experience in the collection Poems From Prison, and the
autobiographical novel The Man Died. After his release from prison, he went into voluntary
exile, and spent some time in Ghana where he became editor of a leading intellectual
journal. In 1975 he returned to Nigeria, and was appointed Professor of English at the
University of Ife.
Soyinka continued to write plays, critical essays and film scripts, and in recognition of his
achievement, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986. By this time, his plays
were being produced all over the world. He has worked as a guest lecturer at several
universities world-wide, including Cambridge, Sheffield and Harvard, where he received an
honorary doctorate in 1993.
After participating in a protest march against the military regime in 1993, Soyinka once again
went into voluntary exile, dividing his time between the US and France. In 1997 he was
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charged and tried in his absence for bomb attacks against the army, and the head of state,
General Abacha, sentenced Soyinka to death. Upon Abacha’s sudden death in 1998, the
accusations were cancelled, and in October Soyinka returned to Nigeria. His play King
Baabu, which premiered in Lagos in 2001, satirises past and present African dictators, and is
modelled on Alfred Jarry’s King Ubu.
Wole Soyinka has written over fifteen plays, two novels, and a number of biographical works.
His literary essays are collected in Myth, Literature and the African World, and his thoughts
on theatre can be found in his 1960 essay Towards a True Theatre. He now divides his time
between Atlanta, Georgia, where he is Professor of the Arts at Emory University, and
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Table of Key Dates
Wole Soyinka is born in Abeokuta, Nigeria.
World War II ends.
The British government decides to grant Nigeria self-rule.
Soyinka enrols at the university in Ibadan.
Soyinka moves to England to study English Literature at the University of
Soyinka abandons his studies for a Masters degree and moves to London
He starts working at the Royal Court Theatre.
The Swamp-Dwellers is produced at the London Student Drama Festival
The Lion and The Jewel is produced in Ibadan.
Soyinka returns to Nigeria and founds his own theatre company.
Nigerian independence is declared on the 1st October.
Soyinka is appointed lecturer in English at the University of Ife.
Nigeria becomes a republic.
The Lion and the Jewel is produced at the Royal Court Theatre.
Soyinka is accused of treason and imprisoned for nearly two years.
The Biafran conflict begins and continues for over two years.
After his release from prison, Soyinka goes into voluntary exile.
Soyinka returns to Nigeria and is appointed Professor of English at the
University of Ife.
Soyinka is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Soyinka receives an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Harvard in
the US
Soyinka is sentenced to death in his absence by a military government.
Soyinka’s death sentence cancelled with the death of General Abacha.
King Baabu premieres in Lagos.
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A Brief Synopsis and Background to The Lion and the Jewel
In the first scene, we meet schoolmaster Lakunle outside the village school, trying to woo his
beloved Sidi, the village beauty. She resists his advances, saying that she will not marry him
until he agrees to pay the bride-price. Lakunle, who has great designs to modernise the
village, tries to explain that this is an outdated practice, and that he doesn’t want to ‘buy’ her
like a cow. He tries to kiss her, but she doesn’t like it and he calls her a ‘bush-girl’ and a
As they argue, a group of villagers arrive and tell them that the stranger with the camera has
returned. In an elaborate dance and music act, they together re-enact the stranger’s first visit
to the village some time earlier, during which he took numerous photographs of Sidi. Now he
has brought with him a glossy magazine where Sidi’s beauty is celebrated in large photos.
Sidi teases Lakunle that she will never marry him now that she’s famous. She is delighted
with the glamorous photographs and can’t stop looking at herself.
The old village chief, Baroka, is also enamoured of her. He sends his eldest wife, Sadiku, to
ask for Sidi’s hand. It’s a great honour, but Sidi refuses, drunk with self-love. Sadiku says
Baroka would like to invite her to his house for a party in her honour, but she refuses this
offer too, saying she knows only too well the likely fate of young girls who have supper with
Baroka. Lakunle overhears their conversation and tries to dissuade Sidi from going. He
knows Baroka’s reputation as a womaniser, and offers to tell a story illustrating his wiliness.
The story of Baroka and the railway is vividly told in song and mime and acted out before the
Baroka, meanwhile, is lounging in his home, surrounded by servile and admiring wives who
treat him like a god. Sadiku arrives and tells him that Sidi has refused his proposal because
he is too old. Baroka seems saddened, and with resignation he confesses to Sadiku that he
has become impotent.
Sadiku can’t believe her ears – have the women finally defeated the old man? Unable to
keep Baroka’s confession to herself, she celebrates with a dance, on behalf of all women in
the village. Sidi arrives, and when Sadiku tells her the news, Sidi decides to go to the supper
anyway, to enjoy Baroka’s humiliation safe in the assumption that he’s incapable of seducing
her. Lakunle sees her go and is momentarily angry, but he’s soon lost in reverie over the
great technological changes that will take place in the village.
When Sidi arrives at Baroka’s home, he is engaged in a wrestling competition and ignores
her at first. Sidi is so engrossed in the wrestling that she initially forgets her original intention,
but she soon starts prodding and teasing the old man, asking about his wives. Baroka is
aware of what she is doing, and uses his status and gravity to destabilise the impertinent
young woman. The two continue their verbal sparring until Baroka shows her a stampmaking machine, tempting her with the idea of having her image on thousands of stamps.
Sidi is overawed, and Baroka takes advantage of her silence by flattering her until she can’t
resist his advances anymore.
At the market, Lakunle and Sadiku are waiting for Sidi to come back. Lakunle is agonising
over Sidi’s long absence, convinced that Baroka has killed her. As they wait, a group of
mummers arrive. Lakunle realises Sadiku has told them about Baroka’s impotence, and
chastises her. Throughout the mummers’ performance, Lakunle and Sadiku continue to
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bicker. Suddenly Sidi arrives, out of breath and crying violently. At first, they can’t get a word
out of her, but soon they understand what has happened. Sidi tells them that Baroka’s
‘impotence’ was nothing but a lie, a strategy to get Sidi to visit him. Lakunle is distraught, and
asks Sidi if she’s still a maid, to which she answers that she is not. At first, Lakunle is
horrified, but he magnanimously offers to marry Sidi nonetheless. As he says this, Sidi
rushes off without a word.
Lakunle is pleased with his own generosity in offering to marry a ‘fallen woman’, and also
with the fact that he now has an even better reason not to pay the bride-price. Sadiku reports
that Sidi has gone to prepare herself for a wedding. Lakunle is surprised at how quickly it’s
happening. Sidi appears in full wedding outfit, looking radiant. She gives him the magazine
with the pictures and tells Lakunle that she’s not marrying him, but Baroka, the still fierce
Lion, who is a more fitting partner for a woman of her spirit. Lakunle is upset, but as soon as
the wedding festivities commence, he begins dancing with another woman and has soon
forgotten about Sidi.
Wole Soyinka wrote The Lion and the Jewel while working at the Royal Court Theatre, where
it also received its first British production in 1966, seven years after its premiere in Ibadan in
Nigeria. It is a light-hearted comedy with a serious message, and it pits the forward-looking
schoolmaster Lakunle against the tribal leader Baroka, illustrating the divide between the
modern and the traditional, both in Nigeria and in the style of playwriting itself.
The play displays a fusion of theatrical styles – from the Yoruban tradition to simple
storytelling to English-language influences. It also contains many of the elements which can
traditionally be found in Nigerian theatre; drumming, singing, dancing and physical
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Theatre in Wole Soyinka’s Nigeria
Yoruba traditions have exerted a powerful influence on current trends in Nigerian theatre,
and continue to do so. One of the major Yoruba festivals is the ancient egungun, a
masquerade performed annually to establish a link between the living and the dead. It is a
sacred ritual in which costumed and masked members of the cult gather to extract the evil
from a community, and its popularity continues to grow.
Based on egungun, a new form of theatre called the Alarinjo developed in the fourteenth
century. Masked actors would perform at the court of the Yoruba kingdom, and actors,
musicians and mask-makers were organised into guilds to ensure that the secret skills of
each profession were not passed on to others. Due to increasing political instability in the
nineteenth century, the kingdoms and guilds were broken up and theatrical performances
became the job of travelling companies.
Another influence is traditional story-telling, which was especially popular in the south. Some
sagas took several days to complete, and were often accompanied by music. Audience
members were often required to participate by responding to the story, or by repeating
certain sections.
All these forms contributed to the creation of the Yoruba opera, which was first developed in
the mid-twentieth century by Hubert Ogunde.
By 1947, the Yoruba opera had taken on a specific form – it opened with a glee (a rousing
musical number), followed by a topical, satirical story with dialogue, song and dance, and
closed with another glee. These performances were heavily geared toward entertainment,
but they always had a clear moral message. Ogunde’s plays concerned the plight of workers
or promoted national unity, and because of their strong anti-colonialism, many were
censored. His travelling theatre company was incredibly popular throughout the latter half of
the 20th century, and this popularity led to the creation of some 120 touring companies by
1981. Other prominent theatre makers also drew upon the Yoruba traditions, sometimes
using traditional Yoruba instruments and musical forms. In 1962, playwright Duro Ladipo
opened the Mbari-Mbayo Centre, dedicated to training performers and visual artists.
Yoruba opera, or Yoruba travelling theatre, is a very adaptable form. It can use traditional
music, dance and myth, but it can also incorporate the latest styles in music and design. It is
adaptable to almost any location, and sets can be prepared and set up very quickly. There is
usually constant musical accompaniment, and although the songs are always rehearsed, the
dialogue is often improvised. This ‘total theatre’ is by far the most popular theatrical form in
Nigeria, and has successfully transferred onto television and film.
English-language plays have also played a strong part in creating contemporary Nigerian
theatre. Church and government schools often had in-built theatres for their students, who
would be encouraged to perform plays by Shakespeare, Moliére and other classical
playwrights. After World War II, the BBC started broadcasting in Nigeria and their radio
dramas became very popular. The English-language playwriting which began to flourish in
the sixties, led by Wole Soyinka, shows clear influences from both these traditions and
reflects much of the tension between the indigenous and colonial traditions.
Other prominent playwrights include John Pepper Clark, Ola Rotimi and Femi Osofian.
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Clark is mostly known for his work with Ijo sagas, the most elaborate of which took a full
seven days to perform. Clark, like many other theatre professionals, combined his theatrical
career with academic posts. Rotimi studied at Yale University and returned to Nigeria to form
his own theatre company, which in 1968 performed a highly successful Yoruba version of
Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex (The Gods Are Not To Blame). His plays, too, combine traditional
performance methods with a political message. Osofian represents a new wave of
playwrights critical of their predecessors for being concerned too little with politics and class
A very important element in the contemporary development of theatre has been the
universities. In 1970 Nigeria became a federation of states, which meant that each state
established its own arts council and its own university. Several of these universities offered
theatre training, and some even supported touring companies. Although state support for
these activities declined somewhat in the early 1980s, Nigeria’s commitment to developing
its theatrical heritage remains as firm as ever.
The notion of fusing different elements and styles from Nigeria’s rich theatrical heritage is the
cornerstone of the work of the British-based group Collective Artistes. Their approach to
working is wholly collaborative. They work in an open, playful atmosphere, bringing together
influences from different theatre cultures. The company is made up of British-Nigerian and
Nigerian actors, and the fusion of these two theatrical traditions is central the work they
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Social and Historical Context
When Wole Soyinka was born in 1934, Nigeria had existed as a British colony for only twenty
years. During his lifetime, Nigeria was to become independent and experience long periods
of civil strife.
The decision to grant Nigeria self-rule was taken in 1951, but independence was not
declared until 1st October 1960, and Nigeria became a republic in 1963. The constitution
drawn up by the British in the fifties meant that rule was divided between central authorities
and three regional legislatures. This quickly led to the emergence of three major political
parties – The National Council for Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC), which dominated in the
East, The Action Group (AG), with support in the West, and The Nigerian People’s Congress
(NPC), which controlled Northern areas. Using a British parliamentary system, the leader of
the NPC, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, was elected Prime Minister.
However, after only two years of independence, a split in the Yoruban AG leadership led to a
crisis in the Western region, and the leaders were charged with treason and sentenced to 16
years in prison. In 1965, violence erupted, and a year later, the federal government was
overthrown in a military coup. As a consequence of the killing of many Northern leaders in
the coup, riots erupted in the North with many Easterners being killed, and later the same
year a group of Northern officers killed both the head of state and the governor. A military
clash between Northern and Eastern regions now seemed inevitable.
In May 1967, the governor of the East declared his region the Republic of Biafra, and about a
week later, the armed conflict that was to last more than two years erupted between the
federal government and Biafra. It was at the beginning of this conflict that Wole Soyinka
spoke out for peace, and was jailed for the duration of the conflict. He was not released until
after the cease-fire had been declared following the defeat of the Biafrans on January 15th,
A series of government changes throughout the following twenty years, including two military
coups and several involuntary resignations, meant continuing political chaos in Nigeria. After
the sudden death of General Abacha, the man who pronounced the death sentence on
Soyinka, in 1998, civilian rule was restored and continues today.
The ethnic variety in Nigeria is enormous. There are estimated to be between 250 and 400
distinct ethnic groups, with almost 400 different language groupings. However, the official
language is English, and many university-educated families speak English in the home. This
co-existence of languages and practices belonging to distinctly different cultures is one of
Nigeria’s unique characteristics, but it can also lead to tribal, ethnic and cultural conflict, as
illustrated in the activities of the Nigerian government and oil giant Shell in the traditional land
of the Ogoni people.
The Ogoni number roughly 500,000 and live in an area no bigger than 650 square kilometres
in the River State in Nigeria. They live mainly off farming and fishing. In 1958, Shell
discovered oil in Ogoni. As Nigeria was still under British rule, the Ogoni had no say in the oil
exploitation, and Shell quickly began their work. Nigeria’s independence did not improve the
situation, as the new country paid little attention to this ethnic minority or to the environmental
consequences of oil exploration.
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The Ogoni founded the Movement for Survival of Ogoni People, led by Ken Saro-Wiwa,
Nigerian author and friend of Soyinka. When Ken Saro-Wiwa was tried and executed on
spurious charges in November 1995, the world was forced to react and Nigeria was
immediately ousted from the Commonwealth.
Nigeria is now enjoying a period of relative political calm. After years of military rule,
however, corruption is not uncommon and faith in the government remains low. Soyinka has
said ‘there are so many forces tearing Nigeria apart that I ask myself if it’s a nation’ and has
called Nigeria’s path to democracy ‘a marathon, not a sprint’.
Yoruba People and History
Wole Soyinka is from the Yoruba tribe. The strong traditions and styles of Yoruban theatre
are very evident in The Lion and the Jewel.
The name "Yoruba" is of more recent origin than the concept. It was originally the Hausa
name for the Oyo kingdom, meaning "the people of the state of Oyo", and was given a wider
use by missionaries only in the 1840s.
Martin Banham writes:
“The Yoruba people are indigenous to what is now the south-western area of modern day
Nigeria and the adjoining nations of Benin and Togo. Over the centuries their position
between the Islamic north of Africa and the Atlantic Ocean in the Bight of Benin has meant
that they were exposed to influences, opportunities and pressures coming variously from the
ancient world of Greece and Rome, the Arab world, and the exploratory voyages of western
European traders, missionaries and colonisers.
The Yoruba, over many centuries, developed a sophisticated society based on strong citystates, with a vibrant culture and important spiritual structures. They were traders and
farmers, artists and inventors, extending their own influence well beyond their nominal ethnic
boundaries. The Yoruba are not strictly one single ethnic group, but are formed from various
individual cultures within a general Yoruba context. There were in the past frequent conflicts
between the rival city-states, vying for economic and political power. West Africa has always
been the most populous part of the African continent, and though it is not possible to give an
accurate figure of the contemporary Yoruba population, something in the region of 20 million
would be a reasonable assumption.”
According to the Yoruba creation myth, the Yoruba derive their ancestry from Oduduwa, the
son of the sky god Olorun. Oduduwa founded the city of Ife when, having been sent down to
earth by his father, he separated the dry land from the water. He eventually sent out princes
to form settlements in the surrounding region.
The city-state kingdom of Oyo was ruled by the Aláàfin. Although it was the pre-eminent citystate of the Yoruba between the 16th and 18th centuries, it was not the only one. The people
of the City of Benin speak a closely related language. They also trace the ancestry of the
institution of kingship to Ife.
The old Yoruba kingdom of Oyo was traditionally one of the largest states of West Africa, but
after the mid-1700s its power slowly waned. At the beginning of the 19th centurary, Fulani
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invasions, slave raids from Dahomey, and the growing contact with Europeans divided the
Yoruba into a number of small states.
The slave trade affected the Yoruba states as all other regions. All the states were either
capturing slaves, dealing in slaves, suffering from the political instability which resulted from
slave-raiding or becoming debilitated by the reduction in productive population, both male
and female, which slave-raiding brought about. The break-up of the Oyo Empire in the early
19th century destabilised surrounding states. In the second half of the 19th century the
Yoruba gradually fell under British control, and they were under direct British administration
from 1893 until 1960.
Today many of the large cities in Nigeria (including Lagos, Ibadan and Abeokuta) are in
Yorubaland. Vestiges of Yoruba culture can still be found in Brazil and Cuba, where Yoruba
were imported as slaves.
Yoruba Culture
The Yoruba culture is communal, where the good of the community is traditionally more
important than the good of the individual. The Yoruba value truthfulness, but not to the
extent that it will harm the community. It is not considered prudent to be honest in a situation
that will harm the communal good.
Seniority and rank in each community was structured predominantly by age, but also took
into account if a person was native to the village and when they entered the community, for
instance through marriage.
Towns could be autonomous politically, ruled by an Oba (glossed in English as ‘King’) or
could be ruled by a local leader without full autonomous political power. This leader was
called the Baálé.
Marriage and Polygyny
Differing views abound on the positive and negative aspects of polygyny – the marrying of
multiple wives - in traditional Yoruba society. Many experts on Yoruba culture present a
positive view of polygynous family life, noting the factors that make polygyny practical in the
Toyin Falola, author of Culture and Customs of Nigeria, associates polygyny with ”the
function of the family as an economic unit of production.” Especially for those in agrarian
production, a large family provides the labour necessary for the maintenance and growth of
the business. Since in many groups women do not have sex while pregnant or nursing,
polygyny allows for a family to have more than one child every three years. Included in
polygynous practice is the tradition of widow inheritance, in which a man marries the widow
of a deceased brother. This practice ensures that the woman and her children remain under
the economic and social care of the family.
Economic and political prestige can be displayed through acquiring multiple wives, and thus
kings, chiefs, and other wealthy personages may take many wives to boast their wealth,
virility and power. As well as promising more progeny, multiple wives represent the
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husband’s economic resources: his ability to raise the necessary bride prices and care for a
large family.
Women also enjoy prestige in the hierarchy of marriage. While a second or third wife holds
higher status over a single woman, the first wife maintains the most privilege among the
women in the family. Traditionally, the first wife would choose her husband’s second and
third wives and act as the go-between, or Alarena, to propose the marriage. Along with the
social status provided by supervising other women in the household, the first wife benefits
from the division of labour that polygyny provides. With multiple wives to do the housework,
the first wife may have more time for her own business, such as harvesting and selling yams,
that she may have outside the home.
Varied views on polygyny may be due to different reactions to the practice in each family.
Toyin Falola writes: “Polygyny requires rules and diplomacy to function. The husband is
careful in disbursing his resources to wives and children. He avoids excessive discrimination
so as not to trigger too many rivalries among his wives and children. The senior wife enjoys
some power over the younger ones. Where the system works, the women support one
another in raising their children and managing their businesses. Where it does not work,
especially in modern times, the man may end up losing his wives.”
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Interview with the Director Chuck Mike
What attracted you to the play when you first read it?
That the writer was having pure, unadulterated fun and intended for us to join in. Some years
ago, I was working with a group of people in Nigeria, led by Wole Soyinka himself, on a
series of satirical sketches which we called Before The Deluge. We’d had a rich history at the
University of Ife in the late ‘70s and mid ‘80s of creating work which had social transformation
as its objective, so whilst we were working on Before The Deluge, I was trying to develop
some ideas which would give the dance creation in our production a strong social message.
Soyinka’s response to that was ‘No, let’s let them have one’. In other words he wanted the
piece to be just plain fun and enjoyment for the audience. Despite what other messages
come through in The Lion and the Jewel, that same idea (fun) comes through very strongly.
My own desire to partake in some of this fun was a major attraction for me.
What kind of preparatory work have you done for rehearsals?
The usual research on the play: when it was written, where the playwright’s head might have
been at the time, how previous productions were conceived and received. I have been trying
to get a notion of what has changed since those productions were done and how a more
contemporary effort would address them.
Finding the ‘rhythm’ of the piece is essential to me in the production process and whilst this is
often generated by the script, it is also influenced by the team of people I have to work with,
both in the animate and inanimate areas of production. So locking them in early for a shared
vision is vital. A lot of the preparatory work is done in the dialogue between us all.
Could you describe a little about how you work in the rehearsal room?
The rehearsals start with the auditions, which are generally done in groups like a workshop.
Actors are asked to dance, sing, improvise and read in a very ad hoc way. They are also
introduced to a theatre game or two. There is a lot of discussion. From the outset we are
essentially concerned about building a company and attracting the right ‘spirits’ for the
experience. Whilst talent is a critical issue, we have increasingly found that the spirit of an
individual actor is of greater relevance to the type of work we produce. In creating the
ensemble we seek people who are generous, committed to others, eclectic and deeply
attracted to the work at hand – especially the process.
All too often actors arrive to rehearsal with agendas which have nothing to do with the actual
work. This might be vanity, a desire for success, selfishness… We want actors whose sole
preoccupation is with the craft of performance – actors who can give and take without being
affected by external ambitions which have absolutely nothing to do with the work at hand.
Working from a good and open heart is perhaps the best way to describe this.
There is a lot of discussion in the rehearsal room. From the outset, we agree collectively on a
code of working ethics specific to this particular group. Generally, characters are not
assigned until late in the first week of rehearsal – casting is not done in the auditions. People
audition to join the company, not for a particular part. We do a lot of reading in the first week,
alongside other company building physical activities. During the readings different people
read different parts, regardless of gender and age, and in some sense the play casts itself as
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it gradually becomes clear who is best for which part. The rest is generally interactive – we
try and explore in the space what is the most truthful way of telling the story. At this point, the
design team, as well as the choreographer and the musical director, are also involved. We all
work in the same space and have proximity to each other’s creative gestations. For example,
our costume and set designer works in the rehearsal room during rehearsals, which means
her work is inspired by and spontaneously shared with the group.
‘Fun’ is also a key word in the rehearsal process. We try not to take ourselves, or the work,
so seriously that we forget that we have come together to ‘play’.
What do you think the challenges are in directing this play?
To enable others who have no experience of Nigerian culture to understand it and appreciate
it. Ensuring that they perceive the underlying messages without taking it all too seriously is
part of the mission. The text and subtext have many cultural references, and if these are not
clear or understood, the appreciation of the play could be diminished.
How do you think the play can speak to an audience today?
Through its basic narrative, the questions it raises and the aesthetic forms we are given by
the writer. It’s a simple story of two fellows after the same girl and one happens to be much
older than the other. Audiences always appreciate a comic love dilemma.
The issues of Western culture and African traditions and how these are perceived and
embraced within African society would also resonate with communities today who are
attempting to confront issues of cultural and social diversity. Where we place our values and
how we adapt to change are key issues in determining how civilisations everywhere
celebrate or undermine their humanity.
Soyinka also cooks up a very spicy theatrical diet by providing us with poetry, mime, music
and dance, which means the audience can be lured into the tale in a very seductive way.
What do you hope the audience will get from the experience?
Ideologically, I hope they grow to appreciate through the situations and circumstances that
the characters are just as human as they themselves. And generally, I hope they will have a
really good evening busting their guts with laughter over Soyinka’s wit. We certainly did in the
process of putting it together.
Resource Pack
Design Images
Model box of the set of The Lion and the Jewel by Atlanta Duffy
Village in Nigeria
Nigerian School Room
Resource Pack
Costume design by Atlanta Duffy
Resource Pack
The Creative Team
Lighting Designer
Assistant Director/CSM
Assistant Choreographer
Production Manager
Costume Supervisor
Stage Manager
Assistant Stage Manager
Voice Coach
Fight Director
Prop Maker
Set Construction
Chuck Mike
Atlanta Duffy
Juwon Ogungbe
Koffi Kôkô
Catriona Silver
Patricia Davenport
Isioma Williams
Richard Eustace
Nicola Fitchett
Dan Franklin
Rosalie Fenelon
Jane Elson
Terry King
Anna Makrakis
Capital Scenery Ltd
Cast in order of appearance
SIDI - the village Belle
1st GIRL
2nd GIRL
3rd GIRL
BAROKA - the ‘Bale’ of Ilujinle
SADIKU - his head wife
Anthony Ofoegbu
Omonor Imobhio
Chloe Okora
Mercy Ojelade
Natasha Bain
Toyin Oshinaike
Shola Benjamin
Ombo Gogo Ombo
Louisa Eyo
Mohammed Dordoh
Chomba Njeru
Antoinette Tagoe
Isioma Williams
Ayanlere Alamu Alajede (attendant/main drummer)
Yaw Asumadu
For Collective Artistes
General Manager
Senior Production Consultant
Education Director
Administration Assistant
Marcia Hewitt
Tamara Malcolm
Victoria Shaskan
Ukachi Akalawu
Resource Pack
About the Young Genius Season
There’s ability, there’s talent and there’s genius.
When we came up with the idea for Young Genius we were faced with a huge number of
questions. Everyone is born with creative abilities of various kinds. Talent, it seems to us, is
the result of a relationship: between an individual and a particular parent or teacher or even
an audience. What is genius? Can it be measured? Some even deny it exists. How is it that
some people can ‘do it’ almost – or so it seems – without thinking and almost as soon as
they begin? We wanted this season to be a celebration of that extraordinary phenomenon:
artists who know at once who they are, who find their voice the moment they start to speak.
We decided to focus on plays that were written before the playwright reached the age of 26.
We read a great many plays and were delighted and astonished at the range and creative
force leaping off the page through history. From the fifteenth century to the 1990s, from
Africa to America to Europe, young, bold playwrights were making themselves heard,
reinventing their craft and changing the future of theatre.
Selecting six plays for production was almost impossible. The plays we’ve chosen range
from Elizabethan comedy to French surrealism to modern British drama, and span more than
four hundred years of playwriting.
From the dawn of Elizabethan theatre, we chose Christopher Marlowe’s epic Tamburlaine
The Great, a powerful story about greed and politics, adapted in a new version by David
Farr. Written just twenty years later, Francis Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle
is an anarchic romp, satirical and hilarious. Then we leap ahead in time – two hundred and
thirty years – to Georg Büchner’s visceral pre-modernist Woyzeck, a withering tale of
poverty and madness. Sixty years on, and Alfred Jarry is causing a theatrical scandal with
Ubu the King in a Paris sizzling with artistic activity, presented here in an outrageous new
version by David Greig. Sixty years later, Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka writes The Lion
and the Jewel, an exuberant example of ‘total theatre’ which points towards the Nobel Prize
Soyinka was later to receive. Finally, we reach the present, with Sarah Kane’s radical,
shocking Phaedra’s Love, a re-working of Seneca’s tragedy which has only been seen once
previously in this country.
To match these works of young genius, we set about finding the most exciting directors and
designers we could. Led by our desire to be both local and international, we gathered six
creative teams from all corners of the world. Geniuses all? You decide. What we’re sure of is
that these 17 full and workshop productions celebrate – across the ages – youthful ambition,
provocation, experimentation, confidence and the joy of creativity.
Join us. Be inspired.
Resource Pack
Bibliography and further reading
The writing of Wole Soyinka by Eldred Jones (Heinemann Educational Books, 1973, revised
Critical Perspectives on Wole Soyinka by James Gibbs (Three Continents PR, 1980)
Wole Soyinka Revisited by D Wright (Maxwell Macmillan International, 1993)
Conversations with Wole Soyinka edited by Biodun Jeyifo (University Press of Mississippi,
History of the Theatre by Oscar G Brockett (Allyn & Bacon, 1995)
For more information on Yoruba history and culture, see:
A Critical Study of Bini and Yoruba Value Systems of Nigeria in Change: Culture, Religion,
and the Self by Emmanuel D Babatunde (Lampeter: Edwin Mellen, 1992)
The Debate on Widow Remarriage and Polygamy: aspects of the moral change in 19th
century Bengal and Yorubaland by A.R.H Copely (pages 128 – 148 from Journal of Imperial
and Commonwealth History Vol. 7, No. 2. January 1979)
Culture and Customs of Nigeria. Westport by Falola, Toyin (Greenwood Press, 2001)
The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses by
Oyewùmí, Oyèrónke (University of Minnesota Press, 1997)
Links - a brief history of Nigeria - a biography of Wole Soyinka with an extensive list of
selected works - a chronology of
Soyinka’s life - a biography from the Nobel
web site - another useful biography from Stanford
University where Soyinka taught,3858,4537299-110738,00.html - interview with
Soyinka from 2002