DEATH AND THE KING'S HORSEMAN Begins Previews This Week at the Stratford Festival

Inspired by a real-life incident, Soyinka’s masterpiece celebrates a community striving to uphold its culture in the face of colonial power.

By: Aug. 10, 2022
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DEATH AND THE KING'S HORSEMAN Begins Previews This Week at the Stratford Festival

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 Oguntokun, Music 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 Iyaloja, Maev 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 musicians, Amado 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.

Production support is generously provided by Barbara & John Schubert.

Support for the 2022 season at the Tom Patterson Theatre is generously provided by Daniel Bernstein & Claire Foerster.

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

CAST (in alphabetical order)

Graham Abbey Simon Pilkings

Kwaku Adu-Poku Olunde, Wole

Bola Aiyeola Adedoja, Guest at the Ball

Celia Aloma Olabisi, Guest at the Ball

Akosua Amo-Adem Iyaloja

Maev Beaty Jane Pilkings

isi bhakhomen Omosalewa, Guest at the Ball

Joelle Crichton Understudy

Déjah Dixon-Green Apinke, Guest at the Ball

Ijeoma Emesowum Ariyike, Guest at the Ball

Rachel Jones Companion to The Resident, Tourist

Matthew Kabwe Constable, Companion to Elesin

Kevin Kruchkywich The Resident

Josue Laboucane The Prince, Tourist

Pulga Muchochoma Joseph, Adeife, Constable

Ngabo Nabea Sergeant Amusa

Andrea Rankin Companion to The Prince, Tourist

Anthony Santiago Elesin

Tyrone Savage Aide-de-camp (Bob)

Espoir Segbeaya Wuraola, Guest at the Ball

Amaka Umeh Olohun-iyo - Praise-Singer

Norman Yeung Constable, Tourist, Guest at the Ball

Onstage Musicians - Percussion

Amado Dedeu García

Adékúnlé Olórundáre (Kunle)

Erik Samuel

Oluwakayode Sodunke


Director Tawiah M'Carthy

Dramaturge and Cultural Consultant Wolé Oguntokun

Set Designer Rachel Forbes

Costume Designer Sarah Uwadiae

Lighting Designer Christopher Dennis

Sound Designer Debashis Sinha

Music Director and Composer Adékúnlé Olórundáre (Kunle)

Movement Director Brad Cook

Choreographer Jaz 'Fairy J' Simone

Yoruba Dialect Coach Wolé Oguntokun

Supervising Fight Director Geoff Scovell

Associate Set Designer Jawon Kang

Assistant Director Mũkonzi Mũsyoki

Assistant Costume Designer Patricia Reilly

Assistant Lighting Designer Christian Horoszczak

Assistant Sound Designer Adam Campbell

Contributing Field Recordist Jude Nwankwo

Assistant Fight Director Jennifer Dzialoszynski

Fight Captain Matthew Kabwe

Movement Captain Pulga Muchochoma

Stage Manager Maxwell T. Wilson

Assistant Stage Managers Alice Ferreyra Galliani, Sam Hale

Apprentice Stage Manager May Nemat Allah

Production Assistant Elizabeth Richardson

Production Stage Manager Meghan Callan

Photo credit: David Hou