Theatre Research International

Articles

Two Plays by Ina Césaire: Mémoires d'Isles and L'enfant des Passages

Bridget Jones

In any consideration of theatre in the French Caribbean, the name Césaire is bound to be mentioned. Aimé Césaire's La Tragédie du roi Christophe (1963) is the most widely- known play in French by a black dramatist, and is now even in the repertoire of the Comédie-Française, and his plays figure widely in checklists of ‘African’ theatre. A revealing contrast can be made between the epic dramas of Aimé Césaire, written for an international audience, especially the newly independent black nations of the 1960s, and the work of his daughter, Ina. He tackles from the standpoint of Négritude major themes of historical drama: the nature of sovereignty, the forging of nationhood; he storms the heights of tragic poetry in French. She is attentive, not to the lonely hero constructing his Haitian Citadel of rock, but to the Creole voices of the grassroots. She brings to the stage the lives of ordinary women, the lore and legends that sustained the slaves and their descendants. Her achievement should of course be assessed away from her father's shadow, but the ‘divergent orientation of the two generations’ also suggests the greater confidence today in the role of Creole language and oral literature, and in a serious theatre within Martinique.