Under The Kunde Tree
26 May 2023
Southwark Playhouse Borough
4.0 out of 5.0 stars
Under the Kundè Tree is set in the 1950s, during the Cameroonian Independence War. The play follows Sara, a young woman torn between love, family traditions, and a time of uproar and change in her country.
If you’ve never heard about this particular war of independence, that is no coincidence. It is also often called the “Secret War”, due to international media staying silent on the matter, and the history of Cameroon rarely being taught in western countries. From the late 1800s, Cameroon was a German colony. During WWI it was then split into two parts, one ruled by France, the other by the UK. In 1948, the Cameroon People’s Union was founded and started fighting for reunification and independence from colonial forces.
Under the Kundè Tree focuses on the time of uprising and activism in the 50s and puts it in the context of young women and their lives in the country. Sara and her cousin live in a small village, where their lives are dictated by the men around them. When Sara first hears of political activism, a push to liberate the country, and to give equal rights to women, she is entranced by these new ideas. But her strong roots within her community lead to struggle and difficult decisions.
When many male activists from the Cameroon People’s Union are arrested, Sara and other women take their place in their fight for liberation, amidst strong repression from French forces, forced relocations, razing of villages, and indiscriminate killings in a push to silence the uprising.
The play is presented in the round, on a small grassy hill in the middle of the theatre. For such a simple staging, it’s a strong and emotional production. It is rare to see such fully fleshed out characters in a short play, with well defined conflict between traditional roots and new ideas of authenticity and individual power.
A wonderful production about a topic not often spoken of. Educational and touching in equal measure, Under the Kundè Tree is not to be missed!