Book review of Contemporary Plays by African Women
This is a book review of Contemporary Plays by African Women, an anthology by Methuen Drama. In 2020, I decided to start my 52 plays reading challenge. In 2021, I am trying it again.
Each week for a year I have to read a script for a play. It can be any kind of play, but the goal is to read at least one a week.
Contemporary Plays by African Women
“This volume uniquely draws together seven contemporary plays by a selection of the finest African women writers and practitioners from across the continent, offering a rich and diverse portrait of identity, politics, culture, gender issues and society in contemporary Africa.”
The above text is kindly borrowed from the back of the book.
A (contemporary) play a day
As my goal of reading plays ties well into my dayjob in the performing arts sector, it’s not something I do often. I started 2021 off with including Contemporary Plays by African Women in my collection also to diversify the voices on my shelf of plays. It has been an eye opener for me for sure.
As I read contemporary plays, I am reminded of different realities. In a different way than if I read “realistic fiction”. Because plays can feel so much more like direct speech when you read it. Which is also why I think this collection hits home.
by African Women
I’ll be the first to say that African playwrights haven’t exactly been featured or dominated my performing arts bookshelves. Until now that is. At least now they have some representation. What really struck me, when reading these 7 plays, was the heavy subjects of them all. Even when some of them are more “light hearted”, they feel heavy in their core.
These narratives are not for the faint-hearted readers. It was challenging for me to read, as I am usually actually somewhat sensitive. Especially to violence that comes too close to someone’s lived reality. But I also felt like I owe these women to let them tell me their stories, because it matters to get them out there.
It of course also comes down to the curation of the 7 plays into one book, but it’s striking to see that domestic violence and subjects of war crimes, are so evidently present. Considering how most of the European plays I’ve read, have rather been about domestic drama, it does set the tone.
A window into your world
Contemporary plays holds a significance outside of the written piece itself, and should not be taken completely out of the context in which it was created. All these plays have had audiences and artistic statements. They are all a commentary and a memory in some format.
These plays were also challenging for me to read, because the narrative formats, were different from what I am used to being introduced to, through western European traditions. The structures are remarkably different but also of course varies with each playwright’s own style. It is clear to me that local storytelling traditions also play into the writing and use of directions given in the plays.
These plays are not mine to “judge” but they had a firm grip on me. From the moment I started reading, I empathized completely with the stories and their characters. So far from my own experiences, yet so easily understood. Both from the perspective of a woman relating to other womens pain, but also on a more general level.
This was definitely worth reading and would be interesting to stage too!
Do you read plays or think about reading outside what you’re typically introduced to?
If you’re curious and want to browse through other book reviews on this page, feel free to have a look at my collection of book reviews right here>> If you’re specifically interested in performing arts books, then you should definitely check out this collection right here>>