Based on folk tales from the Central African country of Cameroon, Tortoise, the trickster loses his smooth, shiny shell, when one of his tricks goes awry. He has tricked the birds out of their feast, and they take revenge by taking back the feathers they had loaned him, giving him no way to return to earth, except by jumping.
The tale tells how Tortoise became king of the animals by outsmarting the other animals. In this version of the stories, an interloper arrives to challenge Tortoise – it is Anansi, who visits from West Africa, and tells Tortoise how he was able to trick the Creator, Nyame, into giving him all the stories in the world.
Tortoise – a male trickster with a big ego has two shells, one smooth, one cracked
Woman – the storyteller
Chief Bird – a hawk male or female
Other Birds – parakeet, sunbird, indigo bird, woodpecker (4 of these can be puppets)
Spider – Anansi, the Man/Spider trickster
King of the Sky – a bird-like character
Servant – human or bird-like, male or female
Tortoise’s Wife – female tortoise
Mmoatia – Fairy
March 7 – 29, 2020. Talespinner Children’s Theatre, Cleveland OH, USA.
The King of the Animals is available through the Canadian Play Outlet.
To view other works by this playwright, click here.
The play has twelve – fourteen characters, but can be played by five actors who use puppets, and double up on some of the parts.
With the exception of Tortoise, Spider and The Woman (who should be of African ancestry), the animals can be played by actors of any ethnicity. Tortoises’ Wife, the King of the Sky, Python, Lion, Elephant and Hare are small parts which can double. These parts and 4 of the birds, could be puppets. Dance and percussion were part of the Talespinner production.