During the welcoming of the dead, the Forest Head passes masks out to the "three protagonists" and as he calls on the spirits of various elements of nature, the masked figures begin a kind of dance, and "as each spirit is summoned, one of the human three becomes agitated, possessed and then pronounces."
The opening image of the play is of the Dead Man and Dead Woman literally coming up out of the soil after being dead for many lifetimes. The image reveals that the wounded dead have come to have their case heard so that they may be set free from the pain of their previous lives. It is an evocative image by virtue of how supernatural it is, the portrayal of dead individuals coming to life again, climbing out from under the earth.
The Figure in Red and the Half-Child
During the more ritualistic section of the welcoming of the dead, a Figure in Red plays games with and chases the "Half-Child" of the Dead Man and Dead Woman around the stage. The image signifies that the Half-Child is caught between the world of the living and the world of the dead, trapped in a liminal space where no one can help him.
The Court of Mata Kharibu
The play starts in the forest, but with the wave of his hand, Aroni transforms the playing space into the court of Mata Kharibu. Two thrones appear, an African guitar starts playing, and the court assembles around the king and his queen. As the stage directions tell us, "Those not involved in the action at any time, freeze in one position." The court is a more heightened and formal setting than the wilds of the forest.
A Dance of the Forests Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for A Dance of the Forests is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.