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Reviews307 Brian Crow with Chris Banfield. An Introduction to Post-Colonial Theatre. Cambridge Studies in Modern Theatre, 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Pp. xiv + 186. $49.95 (casebound ); $16.95 (paperbound). Although the emergence ofthe term "post-colonial" little more than a decade ago has given rise to numerous texts on the theory and literature , few have focused on theater, a focus eminently appropriate since theater is so manifestly a cultural and communal art form. Brian Crow and Chris Banfield's An Introduction to Post-Colonial Theatre thus addresses a void for those teaching the increasing courses in this area and for those desiring simply a working knowledge thereof. Even we in the latter category, however, will discern questionable theoretical and contextual assumptions which prove disturbing in an introductory volume. The most troublesome of these is signalled immediately in the Preface reference to "Oriental" sources despite subsequent citing of Edward Said, who identified "Orientalism" as the very binarism of Western imperialism that Crow and Banfield purport to critique. Such inadvertent perpetuation of cultural hierarchism also concludes the Preface: "Though we have tried to place our playwrights in their cultural and artistic contexts, this is neither a comprehensive survey of drama and theatre in the Third or 'oppressed' World, nor even of the particular cultures to which they belong" (xiii). Unquestioned use of the term 'Third World' repeatedly belies the authors' intent to counter the West's "opportunistic and culturally unequal" (xii) exploitation of nonWestern art forms. Exacerbating these theoretical ironies is the selection of playwrights who number seven and form the basis of each chapter. Even yielding the desirability of a comprehensive approach for an Introduction and conceding the inevitable arbitrariness in such selection, I nonetheless find it problematical. Beyond the bewildering exclusions are the self-defeating inclusions, for the rubric of "Post-Colonial" is stretched to encompass, for example, August Wilson and the United States according to a rationale of a "Third World within the First." Though undeniably, as Said and others have pointed out, postcolonial identity and geography are necessarily hybrid in a global economy, Crow and Banfield thwart the value of an introduction with their amorphous application. This is not to elide the difficulty of definition, as Post-colonialism, like Post-modernism, suggests both an end to as well as extension of its precursor. But an introduction beginning with a description of the 1930s British Empire implies a postcolonialism /Western-imperialism connection advisable to sustain lest Britain itself, once colonized by the Romans, qualify as a post-colonial state. If Aborigines are the post-colonial people of Australia, then why not Native-Americans in the United States? And if African-Americans are to be included instead, then why not other minorities and women? Such inconsistencies extend to a central theme of the book, the 308Comparative Drama search for an "integrated" (9) or "authentic" (16) identity. Though the authors evidence a post-modern awareness of the mediating role of language in consciousness and of the dangers of positing identity as essence, they privilege traditional or ritual drama as a "return to roots" (9) and thus to a core identity offered by neither the "limitations of Western realism" (13) nor the "pale shadow" (14) of literary-based tragedy. This emphasis emerges in the title of Crow's first chapter, "Derek Walcott and a Caribbean Theatre of Revelation," in which "creative exploitation of folk narrative in the theatre" (22) is obviously valued over Western forms. Aside from this curious usage of the term "exploitation" in a book which indicts Western exploitation of these sources, contradiction arises between an earlier suggestion that Antillean Frantz Fanon's analysis of the psychology of the colonialized should be universally applied and the suggestion here that it is unique to the Caribbean experience ofcolonialism (given regrettably scant treatment). Discussion of Walcott's drama begins logically with the earliest "folk" plays and moves to the later "Western" plays; however, after overly critical readings of the latter, Crow returns to Dream ofMonkey Mountain (1967). This may well be Walcott's "masterpiece to date" (33), but the disproportionate space devoted to it (the conclusion centering on play, not playwright) seems more a reflection of the critic's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 307-310
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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