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Socialist Review, January 1994

Weyman Bennett


Colonial style

From Socialist Review, No. 171, January 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The Playboy of the West Indies
by Mustapha Matura

The original version of this play, The Playboy of the Western World, was written by Irish playwright John Millington Synge. Set in Ireland at the beginning of this century it caused uproar, billed as a play that showed ‘Ireland to the Irish’.

In 1982 Mustapha Mature rewrote it, setting it in 1950s Trinidad. The story starts with Ken, who rushes into Mikey’s rum bar in the village of Mayero claiming to have killed his father. The similarities between Ireland at the turn of the century and the West Indies are startling.

The stranger’s arrival causes great interest and soon many of the villagers are visiting the bar to catch a glimpse of the man who committed the enviable crime of killing his father – for his father must have been dreadful for him to do such a thing.

The first act is the most political, with references to the bureaucracy surrounding marriage and suggestions that it is all a waste of time.

[Those who have read] Strumpet City or seen the film Ryan’s Daughter will see similarities between this young Trinidadian woman and young Irish women living in villages.

The play is easily transposed from its original Irish setting to the West Indies. It is not a political paper about how to approach independence or even just a play about how to murder your parents. It is a comedy that quietly puts across good points about the effects of colonialism. Well worth seeing.

Playboy of the West Indies plays at the Tricycle Theatre, London through January.

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