Thematic Concerns of Post-Colonial Playwrights in Nigeria: Relevant Theatre as a trend in recent Nigerian plays




Journal Title

Journal ISSN



Volume Title


De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


While Nigerian playwrights active since independence are generally classified by their generation, this thesis argues that plays published since 1999 by members of different generations share common characteristics. Nigerian theatre underwent a change after 1999, the year when democratic government was restored in Nigeria following years of military dictatorship, and plays published after 1999 reflect this change. This change in Nigerian theatre is discussed by building on and theorising the category of African theatre called Relevant theatre. While Ahmed Yerima’s Hard Ground has been identified as an example of Relevant theatre, the thesis argues that other plays can also be seen in terms of Relevant theatre. I theorise the categorisation of ‘Relevant Theatre’ as a means of looking at plays that explore through their thematic preoccupations the socio-political and contemporary historical events in the country. Though certain plays published before 1999 could be called Relevant theatre, it is the post-1999 plays that make this trend visible in Nigerian theatre. Five plays are chosen for analysis, they are: Hard Ground by Ahmed Yerima, Hangmen Also Die by Esiaba Irobi, For Heroes and Scoundrels by Lekan Balogun, Third World War by Otun Rasheed and Dark Times Are Over? by Olu Obafemi. Their thematic preoccupations which range from a preservation of culture and old traditional beliefs to the struggle for survival, moral values and individual responsibility, present global issues, and a portrayal of the societal ills. By doing so it examines the way violence is presented in Nigerian plays in Relevant theatre. Most scholarly and critical reception of these plays have focused on violence as a result of political circumstances. This thesis however focuses more on the impact on the individual and on the family, raising questions about moral choices and dilemmas. An analysis of the aesthetics of African total theatre is offered in relation to the national model in postcolonial theatre. It is argued that the playwrights in a bid to aid their depictions of violence have introduced a number of experimental techniques into African total theatre.





Research Institute