How to play love


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How to play love


Nigerian literature (English)


This quirky yet refreshing play by Felix Stephen (a.k.a. Nathan Njoku) does not spell out a clear moral or seek to be prescriptive, unlike many of the Onitsha plays. In addition, the misogyny is downplayed. In many ways the play's title is not a clear representation of its message, since death trumps love (and money) here. A somewhat disjointed story, How to Play Love lacks the development of other plays written under the name of Nathan Njoku that appear here in the Onitsha Market Literature Collection. Each act of these four-act plays could stand on its own, and none of the plots or characters have much impact on the other acts.

The play begins with the search by Uba (the main character of the first act)for a prospective lover. He tells the audience that he will "play love and will, [sic] not care what people may say," (pg. 5). However, he appears somewhat inept at the game. He approaches the first two candidates through letters because he was too tongue-tied to seek them out in person. He declares that since love is a magnet, there is "no need of rejecting me," (pg. 5). Neither letter nor approach receives a desired response. Uba then decides to try to be more direct.

This is how he meets a vampire, Helen Nwamma, who would happily take him as a lover, albeit with a few conditions. Uba finds some of these conditions distasteful. He states "my approach of you, might have been somehow misdirected . . . Please, I can now say goodbye to the request that I had earlier made. I shall always continue to be liking you," (pg. 13-14). Uba discovers that he does care what other people may think, and he realizes that not all beautiful women are good partners.

The second half of this act brings in Onyeuka (the rich man), Abel (a friend of Uba's), Agnes (Abel's wife), and Margaret (Abel's lover). Abel and Agnes have recently married and are having difficulties. Abel flees to Margaret, and he discovers that Margaret also wants to get married. Abel tells both women that he is not a man to be trifled with. He runs into Uba, who tells him of his fearful encounter with Helen. All four end up locked in a room with a gun.Uba mistakes Agnes for Helen. Helen, the vampire, serves as a warning against powerful, demanding and beautiful women. This mistake is fateful and reveals some of the underlying misogynistic logic of the play. Agnes, like Helen, is unreasonably demanding and bloodsucking. One can only assume that this mistake costs Uba his life, as Abel ushers them all into the room and murders Uba,Margaret and Agnes before committing suicide.

The second act begins with a rich man, Onyeuku, declaring that rich men are immune to death. Thus begins the other main story line--a declaration that the power of money and the privilege of wealth have limits, for Death reigns supreme. This message continues for the remainder of the play, and each of the following acts show how Onyeuku is punished for his rich life. The final insult occurs as his loving wife happily marries his best friend.


Stephen, Felix N.


Onitsha, Nigeria : Njoku & Sons


ca. 1962?


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Onitsha market literature





Stephen, Felix N., “How to play love,” KU Libraries Exhibits, accessed March 2, 2021,