by Koffi Kwahulé
A seemingly happy bourgeois family of three gathers in the living room to celebrate the anniversary of the parents’ first meeting in a movie theater. When the door rings the daughter opens to a young man who introduces himself as “the thunder’s son coming to burn down the house”. Nobody seems to have met the man before yet the daughter recognizes him as Ikedia. The play unfolds like a film in a sequence of tableaux set in closed spaces – a pervasive cinematic metaphor underscores the whole drama through intertextual references to Gone with the Wind – to reveal the hidden contradictions of a psychologically disturbed family. Ikedia, a rather taciturn character, appears as a magnet and a mirror, seducing each of the three characters in turn, and forcing one after the other to undergo introspection and expose his/her true self. Thus, the mother comes out as mentally unstable, a condition she developed since gunning down the bearer of the mask, Ikedia’s father. Throughout the play she undergoes a progressive verbal degeneracy that culminates in infantile language. The father and his daughter, whom he calls “Ptite Souillure”(the title of the play), maintain an incestuous relationship that triggers animosity between mother and daughter and which justifies the adolescent’s wish to leave the family at any cost, even if it entails killing her parents. Ikedia eventually renounces his initial resolve to burn down the house – an act the daughter sees and encourages as necessary vengeance for his father’s murder – when it became obvious that the family is embarked on an irreversible self destructive process.
Koffi Kwahulé was born in Abengourou (Ivory Coast). He studied at the Institut National des Arts in Abidjan, then at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Techniques du Théâtre in Paris (Rue Blanche) as well as at the Sorbonne Nouvelle where he earned a doctorate in theatre studies.
His plays include Cette vieille magie noire (RFI 1st Prize in International Playwriting), Fama (dir. by the playwright, Festival de Limoges, 1998), Jaz (dir. by D. Giordano, Teatro del Fontanone in Rome, 2000), Le Masque boiteux (dir. by S. Koly and A. Dine, Glob Théâtre in Bordeaux, 2002), Bintou (dir. by. R. Gasquet, Théâtre Océan Nord in Brussels, 2003), P’tite-Souillure (dir. by E. Salzmannovà, DISK in Prague, 2003; Award winner at the Journées d’Auteurs in Lyon), Scat (dir. by Y. Bombay, Comédie de Saint-Etienne, 2003), La Dame du café d’en face (dir. by J. Heldenberg, Zuidpool Theater in Antwerp, 2004; SACD-RFI Prize 1994), Big Shoot (dir. by K/ Frédric, Théâtre Denise-Pelletier in Montréal, 2005).
His plays have been published by Editions Lansman, Actes Sud-Papiers, Acoria and Theatrales, and have been translated into several languages.