David Pownall's cautionary tale about a money-crazed entrepreneur who transports a pickled whale from the Cape of Good Hope round Southern Africa and makes a fortune.
BUSH HERMIT....JOSEPH MARCELL
DOCTOR CASS....BRUCE ALEXANDER
DE SOTO....NIGEL HASTINGS
CULT LEADER....RUFUS WRIGHT
Other parts played by Alison Pettitt, John Biggins, David Seddon, Michael Shelford and Keeley Beresford
Music composed and performed by Russell Taylor and Steve Cooke.
Directed by Peter Kavanagh
A 150 ton female blue whale runs itself aground at high tide in a remote part of the Cape of Good Hope.
Hudson (Vincent Ebrahim) is staying in a cottage by the sea, resting up after a major business coup - selling an independent gold working to a multinational corporation, which has made him immensely wealthy.
With his sidekick Silas (Jude Akuwudike) he watches the whale die, suffocating under its own weight, then sets in motion deals whereby he becomes the owner of the carcass, has it pumped full of formaldehyde, puts in on a low-loader with a specially constructed viewing platform, and exhibits it through the regions of southern and central Africa furthest from the sea.
He starts with the villages and small towns in the deserts, keeping away from the big cities, knowing that word of mouth will always go ahead of him, building up a huge prospective paying audience.
So much nyama, so much meat in one place, cannot help but draw the crowds!
Hudson's former wife (Joanna Monro) recounts his success through droughts, famines and war, all the way up to the Congo border.
There he turns south again to exploit the cities on his way south.
His business insight is vindicated.
Millions come to marvel at the whale.
But when he hits the mining belt, Hudson's ghosts return to haunt him.
And it is there that we learn an important fact about his background.
David Pownall works a rich poetic seam through this tale.
As a young man he spent six years in Zambia and travelled extensively through Southern and Central Africa.
He has written three novels set in these countries.
'Nyama' is based on a true story he experienced of just such a live display in Zambia.
The chief irony, and one that is factual, not patronising, is that while we Europeans would see such a beast out of zoological interest, to these vast crowds the direct human response was to 'nyama' - a huge piece of food.
Nor will the resonance of a spurious, money-making project of picking a sea-creature as a curiosity be lost on our audiences.
Particularly as the SA coast is one of the great breeding grounds of whales.
With Japan recently restarting whaling in their own waters there's a worldwide reawakening in awareness of this totemic species.
Veteran Joseph Marcell plays a bush hermit, a rural African with an Oxbridge PhD and the play's raisonneur.
By David Pownall.
An entrepreneur transports a pickled whale around Southern Africa.