Patricia Cumper writes that the motivation for each of the plays in this collection was anger. The Rapist, which ran for six months in Jamaica, does indeed involve a rapist who insinuates himself into the trust of the main character, but the fury inside the play is as much concerned with the repressive dynamics of a respectable middle-class family as it is to do with a specific act of misogynist violence. With lines that challenge the audience to laughter, and then to question why they are laughing, this is a powerful piece of theatre about gender and class.
The impetus to take on Romeo and Juliet in Benny’s Song was no less to do with fury – with the political violence destroying the lives of so many young people in Jamaica in the 1980s. In the nation-language of the streets, Benny’s Song adapts the narrative of star-crossed love to the tragic mix of ideology, communalism, criminality and the tempting erotics of violence in the ghettos of Kingston.
The Key Game is set in a rundown psychiatric hospital in Jamaica that the government is demolishing to make way for some profitable real estate. The three remaining inmates and their nurse, Norman, are in a state of panic about their imminent release. But this is not really a play about care in the community. What Dappo, Gonzalez, Shakespeare and Norman (characters that Samuel Beckett might have been pleased to own) must confront are issues of a far more existential kind.
With introductory essays by the author and Kwame Dawes, these plays confirm Patricia Cumper as one of the most original and challenging of Caribbean and Black British playwrights.
The cover of this book features ‘Their Spirits Gone Before Them’ – an installation by Laura Facey
Critically acclaimed writer and director Patricia Cumper was until 2012 Artistic Director and Chief Executive Officer of Talawa Theatre Company, the UK’s foremost Black theatre company.