(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/15.)
Paul Miller’s policy of resurrecting early work by established writers pays off handsomely with this revival of Mustapha Matura’s sharp-edged satire. Virtually unseen since its Royal Court premiere in 1974, Matura’s play not only offers a potted guide to Trinidadian ethnicity, economics and politics, but also a potent metaphor for the post-colonial process. It is also very funny. The title refers to Trinidad’s carnival, when almost everyone gets to Play Masquerade. In the first half, set in Port of Spain in the late 1950s, we see the disruptive impact of the annual fiesta on the life of a film-obsessed East Indian tailor, Ramjohn, and his disciplinarian mother. But the key figure is Ramjohn’s African apprentice, Samuel, who is in love with carnival and also captivated by the new People’s National Movement under Dr Eric Williams. By the second half, set in post-independence 1963, Samuel has become the new government’s police commissioner, and a cynical oppressor prepared to use the pre-Lenten costume parade for political ends.