DEREK WALCOTT was born in
He has had at least two lives. One of them, acknowledging his white English grandfather, has kept in touch with the Empire, the classics, English literature, but also the insignia of
Walcott has published more than twenty plays. The majority of these plays have been produced by the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, and have also been widely staged elsewhere. Many of them deal, either directly or indirectly, with the liminal status of the
In his 1970 essay on art (and specifically theatre) in his native region, What the Twilight Says: An Overture, Walcott bemoans the lasting effects of over 400 years of colonial rule. He reflects on the
Discussions of epistemological effects of colonization inform plays such as Ti-Jean and his Brothers and Patomime. One of the eponymous brothers in Ti-Jean and his Brothers (Mi-Jean) is shown to have much information, but to truly know nothing. Every line Mi-Jean recites is rote knowledge gained from the coloniser, and as such is unable to be synthesized and thus is inapplicable to his existence as colonised person.
Walcott probes the colonial dialectic in his two-hander Pantomime. In the play, Walcott revisions the story of Robinson Crusoe / Man Friday in an effort to destabilize the colonial power constructs. Reversing the roles of master / servant, Walcott temporarily lends to Trinidadian Jackson, a guest house factotum and calypso singer, the role of Crusoe, with Harry, a British ex-patriate and owner, the identity of “Thursday,” thus resetting Daniel Defoe's legend in pre-colonial days. Recalling his fascination with the Edenic concept on naming, Walcott highlights the problem that faces the Caribbean writer by having Jackson re-appropriate the material objects around him, re-christening them in a pseudo-African language, calling the table “patamba,” the chair “banda,” etc, recalling the poesía negra's use of jitanjáfora mentioned earlier. The scene at first reflects
Walcott's plays weave together a variety of forms; including those of the folktale, morality play, allegory, fable, ritual and myth; as well as using emblematic and mythological characters to address issues in non-realistic ways.