An Introduction to Caribbean Francophone Writing: Guadeloupe and Martinique

By Sam Haigh | Go to book overview

5
Theatre and Resistance?
An Introduction to some
French Caribbean Plays
Bridget Jones

By its nature, theatre is more elusive than fiction or film, as no fixed ‘text’ can serve as a reference for the overall experience. However, the immediacy of a live event, in which play, performers and audience come together, also makes theatre a form that can reflect a community very directly, demonstrating what values, concerns and means of expression are shared by the group. The dramatic heritage of the French Caribbean is complex: these are small-scale societies where the oral traditions associated with African survivals remain important, whereas the educational system requires respect for French classical drama and its written texts. In Guadeloupe particularly, ritual practices from the Indian subcontinent also survive; in Guiana, small groups descended from the original Amerindian inhabitants of the region, as well as maroon communities,1 continue to practise traditional arts. Moreover, as Overseas Departments (départements d'outre-mer (DOM)), the parameters within which the theatre functions are ultimately set by French political and administrative decisions. Directly and indirectly, most budgets are funded from France. The theatre thus becomes a privileged arena, a site where the paradoxical strains of dependency and difference can be enacted. The dominance of the French language can be contested in Creole, agony danced to a drumbeat as well as explored in alexandrines. Even the unpretentious farces that appeal to

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1
In Surinam and French Guiana, the deep forest allowed escaped slaves to set up free communities, which have retained distinctive cultural traits: see Jean Hurault (1970), Africains de Guyane. La Vie matérielle et l'art des noirs réfugiés de Guyane, Paris and The Hague: Mouton; Richard and Sally Price (1980), African-American Arts in the Surinam Rainforest, Berkeley: University of California Press, especially ‘Performance in maroon life’, pp. 16787; Richard Price (1983), First-Time: The Historical Vision of an AfroAmerican People, Baltimore: John Hopkins.

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