Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

Mosquito! or, Addition, Vernacular, or Rat? A Railway for Freetown

Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

Mosquito! or, Addition, Vernacular, or Rat? A Railway for Freetown

Article excerpt

THE PLAY MOSQUITO!, about the building of the Hill Station Railway in Freetown, was devised and presented during the course of a drama workshop at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, in March and April 1972. The original idea for the documentary play came from an article by Dr Leo Spitzer.1 Further research for suitable material took place by the director in the UK in preparation for the workshop. In Freetown, members of the workshop then researched additional material and here enjoyed the skilled guidance of Professors John Peterson and Eldred Jones. Newspapers and journals were consulted in the Fourah Bay College Library, and these are given their references elsewhere in the text. Personal recollections of the railway were sought from the older residents of Freetown, and the relics of the railway - now reduced to a few bridges overgrown by the bush, the station at Wilberforce, and a sign at Hill Station - were noted, photographed, or recorded, and included in the final presentation.

Mosquito!, therefore, deals in fact. The director and the company gave theatrical shape and cohesion to the facts by the introduction of some original material, but the basic purpose of the presentation - to tell a piece of Freetown's history in a vivid way - relied on the material being accurate.

The presentation of the documentary was in the Mary Kingsley Theatre of the African Studies Centre at Fourah Bay College. The production was designed by Trevor Faulkner, and incorporated a large ground-cloth 'map' of Freetown so that the actors could show the audience the various routes projected for the railway, and the location of action. The play was directed by Martin Banham.

Scene One

{The stage is dark. Slowly music begins to rise that is evocative of a journey across the sea, with sound effects of a ship in voyage built in the music. On a large screen hanging over the stage is a sea and sky scene appropriate to the music and the sound. Gradually this fades and in its place is a print of old Freetown, along which the film camera has slowly panned, showing a scene from the late-nineteenth century. The music has faded, too, and behind the view of Freetown there is now the sound of crickets, night sounds, and finally a cock-crow. From behind the stage, upon which the light is gradually dawning, the sound of a song can be heard. During the four verses of the song, the whole Company of actors come onto the stage from right and left, creating through mime the activities of a busy morning. The stage can now be seen to have the floor covered with a 'map ' of Freetown, and the upstage area consists of two levels, with a large staircase rising stage right to a raised platform. The platform is decorated with palm fronds, with a bamboo-and- rope replica of a railway track, a large sign (at the top, stage left) saying HILL ST A TION, and a variety of hats hanging on the palm fronds.)

The Company {while entering and engaged in mime activities, sing):

Mosquito! Mosquito!

One of the curses of this area

Was the dreaded disease malaria!

Mosquito! Mosquito!

The mosquito in bite don pave

The way to the White Man's Grave!

Mosquito! Mosquito!

When he bites the man he give

A very nasty fever!

Mosquito! Mosquito!

The mosquito in bite don pave

The way to the White Man's Grave!

Mosquito! Mosquito!

When the mosquito he go bite 'em

The White Men all go 'fraid am

Mosquito! Mosquito!

The Mosquito in bite don pave

The way to the White Man's Grave!

Mosquito! Mosquito!

One of the things about him

We couldn't have done without him!

Mosquito! Mosquito!

The mosquito in bite done pave

The way to the White Man's Grave!

{At the end of the song, the Narrator climbs to the top of the staircase s.l. and reviews the scene. The company meanwhile have moved out of their mimes and put on various of the hats arranged on the set. …

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