Toussaint Louverture: The Story of the Only Successful Slave Revolt in History

Duke Univ. 2013. 248p. ed. by Christian Høgsbjerg. ISBN 9780822353140. $23.95. THEATER
OrangeReviewStarThis is the first edition of a play that hasn't been seen since its production in 1936; it was lost in plain sight in the archives of the University of Hull, England. That production, in London, featured Paul Robeson and was the first time in England that black professional actors starred in a play by a black playwright. In an excellent introduction, Christian Høgsbjerg notes that James (Beyond a Boundary) was motivated to write a play about Haitian Revolution leader Toussaint Louverture for two reasons: "vindication of black accomplishments in the face of racism" and the promotion of the struggle "for West Indian sovereignty and self-determination." The language of the play is rich, not ponderous, but modern audiences may be dismayed by the sheer number of words; it was clearly written before the current trend of rapid cuts and nonverbal cues took hold. This script is from a bygone age; its value lies not only in its importance as a document of theater history but also as a crucial addition to the canon of works about the Caribbean.
VERDICT This work would be difficult to stage these days (it boasts an especially large cast), but it should not be ignored by groups that can marshal the resources. Historians of the Caribbean will find it essential.
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