Set in the Nigeria of 1943, Wole Soyinka’s Death And The King’s Horseman uses an ancient tradition to examine the essence of corruption and the power of human will.
The King is dead and tonight his horseman must escort him to the ancestors. As Elesin Oba dances through the closing marketplace, flirting with the women, pursued by his praise-singer and an entourage of drummers, he promises to honour the ancient Yoruba custom of ritual suicide and so accompany his ruler on the final journey. But a life so rich is hard to leave, and this is a British colony where such customs are not tolerated, no matter how sacred.
Nigerian writer, poet and playwright Soyinka won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986. Initially educated in Nigeria, he studied English Literature at Leeds University and worked at the Royal Court before returning to Africa to continue his study and begin teaching. During the Nigerian Civil War of the late 1960s, Soyinka was imprisoned as a traitor. In addition to Death And The King’s Horseman his plays include The Lion And The Jewel, A Dance Of The Forests and The Strong Breed.
Death And The King’s Horseman is directed by Rufus Norris, whose recent productions include the recent revival of Cabaret, Hergé’s Adventures Of Tintin, Festen and Vernon God Little.
Death And The King’s Horseman is staged in the National’s Olivier Theatre as part of the Travelex £10 season.
For more about Death And The King’s Horseman at the National Theatre, read the First Night Feature.