Coups and Calypsos


141 pages
ISBN 1-55128-090-6
DDC C812'.54





Reviewed by Nanette Morton

Nanette Morton teaches English at McMaster University in Hamilton.


Coups and Calypsos is a two-act play set in Tobago in 1990, during an
attempted military coup on the nearby island of Trinidad. Elvira, a
doctor, is stranded at the home of her ex-husband, Rohan, an English
professor. Isolated and curfew-bound, the couple’s marital conflicts
are played out against the backdrop of civil unrest. The conflict
between Elvira and Rohan mirrors the cultural and racial differences
that characterize Trinidad and Tobago—differences that result, at
best, in an uneasy alliance.

After the abolition of slavery in 1834, Trinidadian plantation owners,
unwilling to pay freed Africans adequate wages, imported indentured
Indian laborers. Elvira is descended from the African group, a fact that
was met with little equanimity by Rohan’s Presbyterian Indian family,
who stridently resist racial mixing. Elvira still smarts from the
rejection; Rohan, however, minimizes it.

While the characters’ conflict resists a tidy ending, the play’s
structure is sound and well crafted. It obeys the traditional unity of
time and place, making the characters’ interactions increasingly
intense. Readers unfamiliar with Trinidad and Tobago will find the
background information that informs the couple’s conflict introduced
without awkwardness or fanfare.


Philip, M. Nourbese., “Coups and Calypsos,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 29, 2024,