A: Wole Soyinka Pf: 1965, London Pb: 1965 G: Drama in 2 acts S: The Professor's store by a roadside, Nigeria, 1960s C: 8m, extrasThe Professor is a likeable scoundrel. He was expelled for embezzlement from the church in which he was a lay reader, and now makes a living forging driving licences and selling spare parts of cars that he has caused to crash on ‘the road’ by removing traffic signs. His store, where he holds religious services, provides a meeting place for layabouts, crooks, lorry drivers, and corrupt police. Some of their stories are revealed in flashbacks, especially that of Kotonu, a lorry driver, who knocked down an egungun masquerader. Resourcefully, Kotonu loaded the body into his lorry, took the man's mask, and danced in the festival until he could escape at daybreak. Kotonu has now brought the wounded masquerader Murano to the Professor, and the Professor gives him a job as his servant, even though Murano is now unable to speak. At a religious service that evening, Murano dons his mask and becomes possessed. This sparks off a fight, in which the crooks' leader Say Tokyo Kid stabs the Professor, and is then killed by Murano. The Professor's dying words are: ‘Breathe like the road, be even like the road itself…’.
A: Wole Soyinka Pf: 1965, London Pb: 1965 G: Drama in 2 acts S: The Professor's store by a roadside, Nigeria, 1960s C: 8m, extras
To appreciate The Road fully, it would be necessary to have a proper understanding of Yoruba belief. And yet it raises issues to which Western audiences can relate. In the opposition between the rational arguments and lack of integrity of the Professor and the religious ritual of the mute egungun masquerader Murano, Soyinka explores the confrontation between human reason and religious ecstasy, which is at least as old as Bacchae (which Soyinka adapted in 1973). Ultimately, it is the quest, ‘the road’, that matters.