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“Tell the police." ... find out more about our thrilling poetry event

“Tell the police. But if the police do nothing, I put you above the police. And crocodiles are hungry at night.”

Malawi in the 1980s was a dangerous place. People disappeared. Even President Banda’s cabinet were not safe. Banda ordered his Young Pioneers to act against anyone who opposed the president.

And Crocodiles Are Hungry At Night is an adaptation of award-winning poet Jack Mapanje’s prison memoir of the same name. In 1987, Jack Mapanje, then a little-known academic, linguist and poet, was imprisoned without charge at Mikuyu prison in Malawi. Despite an international outcry led by Amnesty International and supported by many writers and artists including Wole Soyinka, Harold Pinter and Ronald Harwood, he remained there for 3 years, 7 months, 16 days and more than 12 hours. He was never told why. This is his story. It is a story bursting with hope and humour, and the extraordinary people who survived President Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s attempts to silence his opponents. Living with the threat of death by a ‘car accident’ or being thrown into the crocodile-infested Shire River, Jack Mapanje and his fellow prisoners of conscience survived the dreadful conditions with a spirit of optimism and humanity, which is both uplifting and extraordinary.

Everything in this play is true.

And Crocodiles Are Hungry At Night the prison memoir was published last year by Ayebia Clarke publishing, and launched at an event hosted by Amnesty International. The book has created a lot of interest both in Malawi and the UK; Jack Mapanje was recently interviewed alongside Nadine Gordimer on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week, and the play has been booked for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s poetry festival in July.

The play runs for 105 minutes, and plays without an interval.

Tickets: £15.00. Bar available. 24-Hour Ticket Hotline (01789) 294911 also available from The Shakespeare Bookshop (now relocated to the Birthplace gift shop) in Henley Street.

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