::Death and the King’s Horseman


 You have to see this.  Not because you’re a avid theatre-goer, or because you’re a Nigerian Culture enthusiast, or any other such surface reasoning.  Go and see this because you will experience something. And it’s important we feel our way through life and art, equally.

Wole Soyinka play Death and the King’s Horseman is currently amidst a stint at The Olivier, within The National Theatre, Southbank, London.  It is, as it goes, the first play written by a black playwright to ever be put on at the Olivier theatre in it’s 33 year history.

Wole Soyinka is a world-class playwright who’s timeless works continue to rock theatres and line shelves across the globe.  Learn more about him here.

Death and the King’s Horeseman Synopsis:

The drumming begins. A king has died and his spirit must be escorted to the ancestors. It is an honour that falls on the king’s horseman, Elesin. In the marketplace, the Praise-Singer prepares Elesin for his ritual passage from life to death to fulfil his duty. But their world is shaken by Elesin’s carnal temptation and the interference of a well-meaning but misguided British official. Based on an incident in 1946 Nigeria, Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka’s great African tragedy is set against the backdrop of a colonial mindset and a vibrant, mystical culture in peril. Directed by Rufus Norris. 

 Death and the King’s Horeseman has an unparalleled level of vibrancy and richness that only such a culturally and socially poignant piece can produce.  It’s both achingly emotive and effortlessly  humorous.

We went to see the show out of interest but largely in support of Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, a phenomenal actor who performed an explosive monologue at the Writer’s Block April Anniversary show, in Shoreditch London.

Kobna plays the character of Olande, the son of the King’s ‘Horseman’ or rather ‘right hand man’ Elesin. The  bridge between two worlds.

A special mention must also go to Nonso Anozie who plays the character of protagonist Elesin.  An absolutely stellar performance.  Bold and abrasive yet perfectly projecting the inner turmoil and vulnerability often called for.

It would have been easy to get very carried away with a full review and possibly spoil some hidden gems I feel you should experience live. It’d also have been easy for me to hark on about what the play meant to me on numerous levels. But it’s likely that’ll detract from your experience (I think you’ve gathered by now that we feel you should experience this yourself).  There ought not to be an exclusivist view on what the play should mean.  Take from it what you will, then come back and share your views with us, with anybody.

Death and the King’s Horesman is on at The National Theatre until Wednesday 17th June.  As part of the special Travelex Season, half the seats in the auditorium are just £10!

For more information visit The National Theatre website



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