Play Reviews

Ricky Dujany’s ambitious debut play looks at a major figure in the 1980s battle for African liberation. It raises important questions, writes Jay Williams

Sankara is an overtly political drama. It is based on the life of Thomas Sankara, president of Burkina Faso—formerly Upper Volta—from August 1983 to October 1987.

Director Ricky Dujany illustrates the life and death of Sankara within a Shakespearean framework.

The play starts at a tremendous pace, combining revolt with African dance.

The first word spoken by the statuesque Sankara is ‘comrades’.

But there is no mistaking that this is a military coup.

In places the rhetoric of the play, using Sankara’s own speeches and sayings, is wonderful. This is combined with some original pieces of wit.

The same white actor plays a South African, French President Francois Mitterrand and a CIA stooge. This device neatly portrays imperialism as systematic and connecting.

It also helps to show tensions between different African countries and who ultimately benefits from them. And, as Sankara says, ‘Those who exploit Africa exploit Europe too’.

The audience is directly involved in the play. Sankara addresses the audience, not only as a crowd but as individuals.

We are encouraged to join in the chanting at one point—a brave thing for a director to do.