On the surface, “Gamblers” is a play about a recent and booming phenomenon – hostage taking. Over 100 hostages were taken in the Nigerian Delta during 2009 alone. In the same year, Somali pirates made over 50 million Euros from kidnapping activities. It could be said that hostage taking is rapidly becoming a thriving industry. On a global scale, this entire ‘industry’ including the insurance, protection rackets, security companies and mercenary agencies that accompany it, has a commercial value of several hundred million dollars. This “sector” of the global market produces sizeable revenues each year in the northern and the southern hemispheres alike.
Deep down, the play examines the workings of Free market, illustrated in this play by this phenomenon of hostage-taking. “Gamblers” is a play about the conversion of men, whatever their origin, to the temptations of the free market economy. Having triumphed over communism, the free market is no longer seen as an economic alternative but has become the mainstay of good governance throughout the world. Economic growth measured by GDP has become a key indicator of a nation’s standard of living, which in turn is an indicator of the success of a country’s leadership.
In my short play also about the economy, “Market Place”, the character, Professor Lafleur expresses : “We no longer really know whether we are happy or unhappy, there is so much confusion in our minds between prosperity and production, between happiness and consummation, between well-being and purchasing power.”
At the heart of the dogma of the free market economy is a magic operation, worthy of great religions, let us call it “Reification”. What I mean by this is the transformation of anything and everything in existence, even abstract notions, into quantifiable objects. That gives to the merchants the capacity to make trade of everything. This “sacramental” power gives the market a dimension surpassing the realms of a simple system of exchange, but comes under religious field.
In “Gamblers”, it is the market as a faith and the free market economy as spirituality that is being studied. At the heart of this spirituality is an absolute quest: profit, a vocation: marketing, an asceticism: competition and a salvation : growth.
The characters ROBERSON and FOOL represent the true believers of free market. FOOL is a capitalist of the new generation. His character has adapted especially well to the intricacies and realities of the global market and is equally conversant with the games of both small business and multinationals. It’s he, who best adopts the customs of international finance, eschewing family and friends for strategic profitable alliances that are only as good as the next deal. HUNGRY, is a potential disciple, a man to convert. UPRISING is orphan of war who works as chauffeur for SHELL company. He remains a rebel dedicated to his father’s struggle and what is seen by the others to be an outdated and hopeless cause, justice.
Although the play is set in Niger’s Delta, “Gamblers” is not specifically a play about Africa. It’s not a play about Nigeria. The plot is just as plausible in Iraq, Bogota or even in the centre of Paris. This is the reason the characters do not have ethnic names. They are named by their attributes. ROBERSON is the exception. His character represents the western world.