What is The Africa Trilogy?


Produced by Volcano Theatre

Presented by Luminato in association with Harbourfront Centre. Co-commissioned by Luminato and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

The Africa Trilogy is an international trilogy of plays examining the relationship between Africa and the West from three distinct points of view. Our core creative team of 3 writers and 3 directors comes from 3 regions: Africa, Europe, and North America. Joining them is a team of 11 performers and a production staff (totaling close to 60) hailing from Canada, Cameroon, Germany, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Rwanda, South Africa, Sweden, UK, the USA, and Zimbabwe. The majority of these artists now live in Toronto.

The three plays will be presented together in one evening with two intermissions (approximately 3.5 hours) at Harbourfront’s Fleck Theatre, Toronto, June 10-20, 2010.

The current relationship between Africa and West is dominated by incomplete stories, hidden truths, hidden agendas, over-simplification. The predominant clichés of lions, elephants, disease, corruption and war are collectively defined in theoretical circles as Afro-pessimism, and they have pounded the reality of an entire continent of 54 countries and hundreds of languages into a single story of disaster. This project asks the question: what is really going on?

Our task is to explore the human reality of a global relationship from a variety of viewpoints. This is by far the biggest project we have ever undertaken.


Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God, by Roland Schimmelpfennig (the most produced contemporary playwright in the German language): We begin with a play set in an unnamed Western city, with an all-white group of medical professionals talking about Africa at a dinner party.

Two went to work in a crisis zone in an unnamed African country for six years. Two stayed at home in their unnamed Western city, made a lot of money, and had a child. Each couple envies the other. Their reunion is a disaster. In this play, the obsession is with the past – the decisions made, the mistakes that followed. It is harrowing, and bitterly funny – a sort of post-colonial Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Directed by Liesl Tommy, South Africa.

GLO, by Christina Anderson (identified by American Theater Magazine as one of the top 15 American theatre artists under 30 whose work will “transform America’s stages”)

GLO pushes the boundaries of location and time to tell the story of Lydia Wahu Kanja and her younger brother Benjamin. She leaves Kibera, Kenya to promote her recently published memoir in the United States while Benjamin stays behind. Confronted by characters who tug at the fabric of race, gender, and global relations, brother and sister attempt to navigate the (un)familiar  landscape that unfolds before them.

Directed by Josette Bushell-Mingo, UK.

Shine Your Eye, by Binyavanga Wainaina (winner of the Caine prize for African Literature): We move then to Lagos, Nigeria, and a group of all-black characters. Shine Your Eye is a high-tech show that brings a virtual world onstage with animation and projection. The play explores the notion of territory – and what possible territory might exist for a new generation of Africans, now in their twenties.

The main character, a young computer hacker in Lagos, is forced to choose between two possible futures: one Western, one African. In so doing, she is forced to look forward, into her own future, and to make a choice about where she will go, and what boundaries she may have to transgress to get there. “Shine Your Eye” is a Nigerian expression,  meaning “wake up, look at what’s really happening”.

Directed by Ross Manson, Canada.

All three plays are linked by varying representations of a young African woman and feature video design by Berlin’s industry-leading fettFilm. Shine Your Eye also features projected animation by Toronto’s Disproportionate Pictures. A music and choreographic team from Canada, the USA, Pakistan and Zimbabwe is working on the trilogy.


Volcano is situating this precedent-making theatre project within a network of other related activities that will connect the trilogy to larger communities – artistic, cultural, diverse. Here is the ancillary programming we have planned:

1) PANEL DISCUSSION: African Issues and the Challenge of Artistic Response Binyavanga Wainaina, playwright and Caine-prize winner, talks with Ngugi wa Thiong’o (“the greatest writer to have come from East and Central Africa” – The East African Standard). Moderated by James Orbinski, author, doctor, and the man that led Médecins Sans Frontières to its 1999 Nobel Prize. Where does art fit in development? At the George Ignatieff Theatre, U of T.

2) BAMAKO in TORONTO: Through the vision of curator Mark Sealy (director of London’s fabled Autograph ABP), we showcase the work of three of the hottest photographers from the most recent Rencontres de Bamako – arguably the world’s premiere showcase of contemporary African photography. A rare chance to catch the new wave. At the Gladstone Hotel, in partnership with Ryerson Gallery, Autograph ABP and Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town.

3) inFORMING CONTENT: a workshop exploring innovative methods of play-creation and the relationship between art and ethics. Five short performances based on ethical conundrums will be created in 48 hours. In partnership with the Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto.

4) American Sign Language Interpreted Performances: we offer two performances of the Africa Trilogy accompanied by ASL interpretation in partnership with Picasso Pro on June 11th and 19th, 2010. Click here to go to watch an ASL YouTube video with all relevant info.

5) Online Engagement Project: a comprehensive online production archive that allows access to the creative process for the general public. This archive will serve as a reference for audiences, students, the African Diaspora and Deaf community, and theatre practitioners across Canada and around the world.

Click here to download the full overview as a pdf


“The explosive company from Canada” – The Independent, UK Over the past 15 years, Toronto-based Volcano has won or been nominated for over fifty local, national and nternational awards, and has toured innovative theatrical work to three continents. Volcano is the only Canadian company to ever win the Carol Tambor Foundation “Best of Edinburgh” award at the world’s largest theatre festival (for Michael Redhill’s Goodness, a play about genocide that received rave reviews in Toronto, Edinburgh, New York, Vancouver, Winnipeg and across Rwanda). Volcano attempts to build a theatre that connects Canada to itself, and to the world. Volcano was founded by Ross Manson in 1994.

Click here to learn more @ volcano.ca


%d bloggers like this: