Biyi Bandele

This article is from 2007

Biyi Bandele

Characters come of age in torrid circumstances

Biyi Bandele is a London-based playwright, poet and author. His adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s classic African novel, Things Fall Apart, has been published as a Penguin Classic and his plays have been performed at top venues, including the National Theatre, Royal Court Theatre and the Barbican. Bandele started thinking seriously about theatre after watching a televised version of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, whilst growing up in Kafanchan, a town in northern Nigeria. Bandele’s latest novel, Burma Boy, pays tribute to his father, who was a signaller during the Second World War.

His characters include an enthusiastic young boy called Ali Banana, who is sent out to the Burmese jungle to fight for a country he has never seen. In such hostile and horrendous surroundings, he comes of age. Burma Boy is, by turns, tragic and refreshingly playful; characteristics which Bandele perhaps learned from his father who ‘returned home at the end of the war to a brief hero’s welcome, after which he embarked on a lifelong, trauma-induced, one-man campaign to eradicate all forms of unhappiness . . . his chief weapon for inflicting compulsory happiness was laughter’. (Hannah Adcock)

Recommended reading: The Man Who Came in from the Back of Beyond is his debut novel which realistically depicts modern Nigeria

23 Aug (with Karen Connelly), 6pm, £5 (£3).

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