From the years 1955 to 1964, Cameroon entered a war of independence from the ruling French colonial power of the time. A struggle still felt today, this is a part of world history seldom discussed on an international level. Drawing attention to this, writer and producer Clarisse Makundul presents Under the Kundè Tree, a defiant debut giving voice to the show’s young female lead, Sara – a perspective important more so than ever.
Under the Kundè Tree, a revolution slowly bubbles – this a vital meeting point for Sara (Selina Jones), Jean (Fode Simbo), Amma (Afi Osei) and PA (Yinka Amni) – symbols of the wider population frustrated at their oppressed fate. In Sara, we see a defiant force constrained by not only the colonial power of the day, but the patriarchal structures that dictate women’s freedom. Faced with the prospect of marrying the chief’s son, or forming a romantic bond with her true love Jean – status Vs authenticity is the play’s parallel issue.
Makundul writes an intricate, immersive war play – careful to add heart to a part of history invisible to many. Ebenezer Bamgboye directs a steadily revolutionary climate, one brimming with humanity and hope. The show’s ever moving energy, situated on Niall McKeever’s picturesque astroturfed mound transports us to the hot climes of Cameroon. Objects significant to the production hanging above the grassy plane – microphones placed up above in times of rallying the crowds and communicating through song.
Rose Ryan’s movement direction is impactful, this is a quality that in itself could stand alone and tell it’s own story. The puppet-like nature of it perfectly instilling the fragility of womanhood in the instances where Sara and Anna are victims of violence. Selina Jones’ Sara is idyllic, her character mirroring Yinka Amni’s PA – a young rebellious leader calling for change. Fode Simon’s Jean humble, a mirror to Afi Osei’s nature – a loyal friend to Sara.
Written by Lucy Basaba.
Under the Kundè Tree is currently showing until Saturday 17th June 2023 at Southwark Playhouse. To find out more about the production, visit here…