Book: ‘The Road’
Author: Wole Soyinka.
‘The Road’ is a complex drama. It could be said to be a series of interactions between various characters at a motor park/drivers’ community over the course of a single day. But it is also a discussion of Death. The road itself becomes a symbol of both violent death (characterized by the constant accidents described; accidents from which the touts scavenge spare parts) and also of the inevitability of death for the drivers/touts. The play also shows the search by one character (Professor) to understand death; to grasp both its horror and fascination.
Say-Tokyo-Kid is a timber-truck driver/captain of thugs. We meet him when a politician (Chief-in-Town) comes looking for thugs to hire. Later we hear Say-Tokyo-Kid discuss his personal philosophy. Then the thugs have an accident, and Say-Tokyo-Kid is abandoned in the bush by his terrified men who don’t realize he is still alive. Later, he resurfaces, pouring contempt on his men, and then in the final scene, where Professor has everyone dazed with fear by forcing them to participate in the Ogun-masquerade dance of death, Say-Tokyo-Kid is the one who resists him, boldly. He then, inadvertently, kills Professor.
In a play full of distinctive characters, Say-Tokyo-Kid simply shines. ‘The Road’ can be confusing and difficult, but Say-Tokyo-Kid’s appearances are always full of laugh-out-loud humour. As a thug, he is instantly recognizable. His catchphrases “No dirty timber” and “Thas me, kid”, and classic lines like “A guy is gorra have his principles” and “I’m Say-Tokyo-Kid and I don’t give you one damn!” make him unforgettable.
With Say-Tokyo-Kid, Wole Soyinka proves what a brilliant humourist he is, even in the midst of such macabre material. I like Say-Tokyo-Kid because he’s fully rounded. He’s the only consistently brave and fearless character in the entire play. And even though he’s a thug and I’m not, that desire to feel cool and look cool, to be respected by his crew as an Americana ‘boss-man’ is one I can relate to.