Told By An Idiot Happy Birthday, Mister Deka D

Review in Issue 11-4 | Winter 1999

Mister Deka D sits in a paper hat in the middle of a broken floor with a birthday cake beside him. In a pub no longer trading, this ex-surgeon, ex-mortician celebrates his birthday every day. Back from the war and about to become a father, Trisk arrives through the trapdoor in the floor. Lika hasn’t read the letters he wrote from the front, but she weeps every now and then so as to be in credit with future tragedy.

The first time the company have worked from a text, Happy Birthday, Mister Deka D is by the Nigerian playwright Biyi Bandele. Bandele has seized the opportunity to explore new territory and develop his interest in absurdism. Two people try to talk against interruptions. Their conversation – elliptical exchanges which leave the audience knowing less – are interrupted by a fearsome noise from the upstairs flat: a neighbour who meditates by drilling holes in the wall. The result is a poetic, Beckettian, not quite-absurd play full of surprises – including an exquisitely lyrical moment when Lika tells a creation myth full of references to all creation myths which ends ‘and the world in all its ugly beauty was born’.

The presentation is incredibly still, yet within the stillness chaos lurks. When someone does move, the effect is stunning. But it is a play that leaves room for its audience – like an abstract painting, it both gives and withholds from the spectator. Don’t go with expectations: they are likely to be disabused. Some people love it, others are baffled.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Oct 1999

This article in the magazine

Issue 11-4
p. 22