SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa

Ying Cheng

BA (dual degree in Chinese/English Literature) from Beijing Normal University, MA (Asian and African Languages and Literatures) from Peking University
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Ms Ying Cheng
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Thesis title:
The Dynamics of Theatre Practice in the ‘African’ Public Sphere: A Comparative Study of Nigerian and South African Drama since the 1970s
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PhD Research

This project aims to deliver a clear articulation and comprehensive understanding of the correspondences and differences between West and Southern African drama, under the influence of immediate cultural and social circumstances in which theatre has to operate.

Based on close examination of dramaturgies as well as audience/critic responses towards the productions, the research argues on the one hand that both Nigerian and South African playwrights, such as Wole Soyinka and Athol Fugard, share certain common dramaturgies in their artistic attempts to engage with the possibility of social and cultural emancipation, especially under extreme political circumstances. Two of the most common strategies are the representation of traditional motifs and adaptations from foreign dramatic works. On the other hand, irrespective of these remarkable similarities, playwrights from these two regions are distinguished from each other in the ways in which they deal with the creative aspects of the traditional and the foreign, the familiar and the unfamiliar, thereby making post-independence theatre a vibrant public sphere where issues related to politics, gender and otherness are widely discussed.

Besides protest plays by major playwrights (such as Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka, and The Island by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona), neo-traditional dramas (such as Wedlock of the Gods by Zulu Sofola, and Have You Seen Zandile? by Gcina Mhlophe), as well as more recently ‘adapted’ productions (such as Tegonni by Femi Osofisan, and Mies Julie by Yael Farber) will also be discussed.