Professor Wole Soyinka has announced that Will Smith Look-alike, written by Deborah Asiimwe of Uganda, is the winner of the annual BBC World Service African Performance playwriting competition. 

BBC World Service first began airing African drama 50 years ago, in 1960. In 1971, BBC World Service for Africa launched a playwriting competition, now known as African Performance, and invited its listeners to compose a 30-minute English-language play containing no more than six characters.

The winning entries are recorded and broadcast on BBC World Service for Africa.

That first competition in 1971 was judged by the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, and, by way of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the BBC African Performance season, he returned to judge this year’s competition.

The Nigerian writer, poet and playwright said of Deborah Asiimwe’s winning entry: “I thought the writing was very good and I became really caught up with the play wondering what the final denouement would be. It was convincing”.

Will Smith Look-Alike tells the story of 17-year-old Tereka as he travels to New York with his school music group after they won a national competition.

Once in New York, Tereka believes that his resemblance to the American actor Will Smith will help him to pursue a better life in the USA.

The other winning entries selected by Professor Soyinka, and which will air on BBC World Service for Africa later in the year, are:

Joint second place: Kitu Kidogo, by Atwine Bashir Kenneth of Uganda – a tale of two corrupt policemen who are struggling to make ends meet. They unknowingly prey on the Head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the story takes an unexpected twist.

Joint second place: The Coffin Factory, by last year’s winner, Julia Childs. This is a light-hearted play which deals with the stigma of HIV.

Third place: The Cow Needs A Wife, by Angella Emurwon of Uganda, is a slapstick comedy about a young man whose girlfriend discovers she is pregnant.

He needs to find a cow to give as a dowry to her grandmother and enlists the help of his rich uncle as his opportunistic sidekick.

Special Mention: Mandida’s Shoes, by Mike Mwale, earned a special mention from our judge and will be produced as part of our drama season. The author is a Zimbabwean studying in South Africa.

Mandida is a young schoolgirl chosen to recite a poem in front of the Prime Minister at her school’s Jubilee celebrations. As events unfold she has other plans.

Drama producer, BBC African Performance, Jenny Horrocks, says: “Over the years, the competition has championed new writing talent across the continent, giving listeners an opportunity to provide different perspectives on a diverse range of contemporary issues.

“We’ve produced plays about prostitution, internet fraud, weddings, funerals and football, as well as comedy and science fiction.

“In celebrating the 50th year of BBC drama in Africa, it’s fantastic to look back at the list of creative, funny and hard-hitting dramas that reflect the wealth of creative talent across the continent.

“This year there were several strong entries sent in from Uganda and, unknowingly, Professor Soyinka picked three of them as prize winners. They should all feel very encouraged.”

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