Africa Today 47.2 (2000) 188-189
[Access article in PDF]
The reading of plays for general entertainment has declined in our society, probably because of a surfeit of other forms of literature in film and television. African plays in English, for the average reader who will quite likely never have a chance to see them performed, give one insights into those societies and, at the same time, are very entertaining. Two African countries--Nigeria and South Africa--have produced the most dramatic literature of which the substantial body is in English, in environments that include many other languages. Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka in Nigeria and Athol Fugard in South Africa are giants of the genre.
The main part of the text is the "Annotated Bibliography of Published Play Texts." Over 250 pages in length, the plot and some analysis of the characters are summarized for each of the 528 entries, arranged alphabetically by author. Some of the summaries fill more than a full page. I was particularly interested in the entry on Soyinka's Opera Wonyosi, which I had read and compared to Gay's Beggars' Opera, and to Brecht's Three Penny Opera. Soyinka set his work in the Central African Empire of Emperor Bokasa, with the main characters, who are Nigerian expatriates living in their own quarter of town, providing a satirical commentary on the corruption in Nigeria. Duncan's commentary on each play is no pro forma listing or summary. He has obviously devoted time to reading the texts critically.
Added to the main listing are the "Subject and Thematic Index" and a "Generic Index." Under the heading of "Survey of Secondary Texts" are "General Bibliographies and Reference Works," "General Works on Nigerian [End Page 188] Theatre," "Journals and Periodicals," "Traditional and Popular Theatre," "Film, Radio, and Television," and "Works on Individual Dramatists." Further separate chapters cover "Bibliography of Secondary Texts," "Author Index: Dramatists," "Author Index: Secondary Texts," and "Index of Play Titles."
Handsomely bound in a sturdy material that should stand up to use on the reference shelf, this work is highly recommended for drama libraries as well as African libraries with significant Nigerian material.
Dalvan M. Coger
University of Memphis