Stage Door News

Stratford: “Death and the King’s Horseman” begins previews at the Stratford Festival

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Stratford Festival’s new Tom Patterson Theatre sees its first modern work on Thursday, August 11, as previews begin for director Tawiah M’Carthy’s production of Death and the King’s Horseman, by Nobel Prize-winning author Wole Soyinka.

The creative team for the Festival debut of this great Nigerian drama includes Dramaturge, Cultural Consultant and Yoruba Dialect Coach Wolé OguntokunMusic Director and Composer Adékúnlé Olórundáre (Kunle), Set Designer Rachel Forbes, Costume Designer Sarah Uwadiae, Lighting Designer Christopher Dennis, Sound Designer Debashis Sinha, Choreographer Jaz ‘Fairy J’ Simone and Movement Director Brad Cook.

Death and the King’s Horseman finds us in British-occupied Nigeria following the recent death of Yoruba king, the Alafin, as his horseman, Elesin, prepares to conduct his final duty of accompanying his king into the afterlife. While lustily enjoying the pleasures of this world, Elesin proudly anticipates his transition to the next – but the sacred ritual is interrupted, resulting in unforeseen tragedy. Inspired by a real-life incident, Soyinka’s masterpiece celebrates a community striving to uphold its culture in the face of colonial power.

Anthony Santiago as Elesin and Amaka Umeh as the Praise-Singer are joined by Graham Abbey as Simon Pilkings, Kwaku Adu-Poku as Olunde, Akosua Amo-Adem as IyalojaMaev Beaty as Jane Pilkings, Josue Laboucane as The Prince, Pulga Muchochoma as Joseph, and Ngabo Nabea as Sergeant Amusa. Also in the cast are Bola Aiyeola, Celia Aloma, isi bhakhomen, Joella Crichton, Déjah Dixon-Green, Ijeoma Emesowum,Matthew Kabwe, Kevin Kruchkywich, Rachel Jones, Tyrone Savage, Espoir Segbeaya and Norman Yeung. They are accompanied by onstage musiciansAmado Dedeu García, Adékúnlé Olórundáre (Kunle), Erik Samuel and Oluwakayode Sodunke.

In rehearsing the character of the titular Horseman, cast member Anthony Santiago has explored the question of, “how does an ‘honourable’ man reconcile his passion for life over his commitment to die in order to save his people and their world?” Santiago says that Soyinka’s play poses many questions such as these, “but provides no easy answers, thus offering exceptionally fertile material to explore,” in the process crafting “one of the greatest tragic characters ever written.”

 Death and the King’s Horseman has its official opening on August 27, and runs until October 29. For tickets and information visit or call 1.800.567.1600.

The 2022 season also features Hamlet, Chicago, The Miser, Little Women, Richard III, All’s Well That Ends Well, Every Little Nookie, Hamlet-911 and 1939. For more information, visit

Photo: Wole Soyinka.