The Lion in Captivity
by Margaret Féquière
In the show currently running at the Paul Robeson Theater in downtown Brooklyn, the main character is played by Guyanese born Kirt Harding, who gives a mesmerizing performance, interpreting Toussaint’s final years.
The venue is a perfect match for the play. Not only because of Paul Robeson’s lifelong dedication to the struggle of oppressed people but also because of the theater’s austere 19th-century architecture. On the rainy night of the premiere, the theater was cold and moist, just like Toussaint’s mountain cell must have been.
Edward Tyler, playing Toussaint’s servant [Mars Plaisir], gives a compelling performance and leaves a vivid impression of the conditions under which the Haitian revolution’s leader was imprisoned. Director Evria Atwell presents Louverture not as an untouchable hero but rather as a proud man who is determined not to lose his self-respect and sanity in spite of his sufferings. Alexander Bilu, the actor playing General Caffarelli, Bonaparte’s envoy, superbly renders his character’s initial arrogance, but also the personal feelings he came to have for Louverture at the end.
As a Haitian woman, I felt proud to watch such a performance and to hear traditional Haitian songs being sung by a non-Haitian cast. The music often accompanied unearthly sequences, such as when the spirits of Boukman, the Haitian revolution’s initiator, and of Louverture’s contemporaries visit him at varying points during the play.
“The spirit of Toussaint L’Ouverture and what he fought for transcends Haiti,” said director Atwell. “It is a universal theme, especially at this time when our freedom and quality of life is being threatened.”
This play is extraordinary and should be seeing not only by my fellow Haitians but by all young black men and women throughout the tri-state area. It delivers many subtle messages about who we are and the powers that we have within us. The actors show Toussaint Louverture as an historical figure whose influence and messages are still timely and relevant.
- Reviews of Plays:
- Toussaint Louverture related pages at The Louverture Project
- Memoir of Toussaint Louverture, Written by Himself - Memoir written in French captivity.
- Fort de Joux - Description of the location in which Toussaint Louverture died.
- Letter by the French Minister of the Marine to the Commandant at Fort de Joux - 1802 letter specifying the conditions under which Toussaint should be held captive.
- The Last Days Of Toussaint L'Ouverture - account of a 1859 visit to Fort de Joux.
- To Toussaint Louverture - poem by Wordsworth - 1802 hommage to Toussaint Louverture.
- Mars Plaisir - Toussaint's valet who traveled with him into French captivity.
- Marie-François Auguste Caffarelli du Falga - One of the plays protagonists.
- Haïti Progrès - This Week in Haiti: November 24, 2004