wole soyinka


On first hearing about this book, my thought was that how can area boys be beautified? But on reading the book my question was answered satisfactorily. This play is a different perception of the street urchins otherwise known as ‘area boys’ in Nigeria. Generally the society views them as a group of no-gooders, thieves, pranksters and miscreants but Soyinka portrays them here as a set of people who are as responsible as the next person and are only busy going about the business of survival.

The play which has its setting in Lagos, Nigeria centres around a syndicate headed by Sanda. Sanda is a University dropout who is quite smart and has the ability to think fast on his feet. He works as a security guard in a shopping complex from where he can source for potential clients for his group. The group members are not just criminals because we see them engaged in various trades. Sanda is portrayed here as a benevolent man and a freedom fighter of some sorts as portrayed by his denigrating songs about the military government which was in power then.

Then comes Miseyi, a former University colleague of Sanda, who was first shocked and disgusted on seeing Sanda at his security job post and was quick to condemn him. On getting to know the reason behind it though, she gladly joined forces with him. Miseyi later shunned her fiancé to marry Sanda on her wedding night to top official in government.

Another character of interest is Judge, a mentally disturbed man really but who had once been a Lawyer. He can be referred to as a cat with nine lives, because he had two brushes with death in a day but escaped luckily. He came to the realisation that justice was not won through the law but through the paths of mercy.

‘Mama put’, a local food seller, was also an interesting cast. She was a mother of one, who lost her husband in the civil war and watched while her brother was killed for her sake. She didn’t allow this drag her down but rather came to Lagos to make ends meet.

The play touched on some delicate matters such as the abuse of power by the military administration, oppression, poverty, fear, hope, and love. The play is also full of witty sayings and outrageous songs which expressed Soyinka’s discontent with the military administration.