Play Reviews

The Red Prophet

Volume 14, Issue 2 | Published 27/10/2017  

Author: Atamjit Singh
Unistar Books Chandigarh, 2010, in Punjabi  
John Sibi-Okumu

It bears pointing out, at the outset, that The Red Prophet is the title of a play, written by Atamjit Singh. It focuses on Makhan Singh, the trade unionist who paid for his egalitarian conviction by spending four years as a political detainee in India and over eleven, record setting years in Kenya, in the build-up to the country’s independence. In various editions, AwaaZ has already dedicated many column inches  to this extraordinary man and hence the novel allure of confronting a playwright’s, as opposed to a biographer’s or an academic’s perception of him.

 Ideally, a play should be seen and not read. The irony, however, is that whoever chooses to direct any play must, first of all, read it.  From such a reading, the would-be director must strive to visualise the play, in its entirety, and to have a clear, initial idea of how to interpret the script, a vision which could be altered in the process of rehearsal. So, it was as an actor-director and playwright myself that I engaged the text of Atamjit Singh’s The Red Prophet. In May 2014, Atamjit came to Nairobi accompanied by two actors and gave a well-received staged reading of the work-in-progress, in a Hindi version, which was attended by some members of Makhan Singh’s family. I met Atamjit during that trip but did not see the performance itself.