Elizabeth Kuti

Life
Ed. TCD; actress and playwright; author of The Sugar Wife (Rough Magic, Dublin 2006), concerning sexual politics among Quakers in the Dublin of the 1850s; nominated for Irish Times Best New Play.

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Works
Elizabeth Kuti, The Sugar Wife (London: Nick Hern 2006), 96pp.

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Commentary
Eamonn Kelly, review of The Sugar Wife, in Books Ireland (Dec. 2006): ‘[...] the play is concerned with the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 and concentrates on a childless couple, Hannah Tewkley and her husband Samuel who, despite Hannah's charitable work for the poor of Dublin, are nevertheless dependent for their wealth on the enslavement of others through her husband's thriving business dealing in tea, coffee and sugar imports. / The recipients of Hannah's charitable work are represented by Martha Ryan, a syphilitic prostitute who yearns to join her sister in America and asks Hannah to give her the fare. In a satirical swipe at the type of charity that prefers to improve the'victim'as opposed to actually helping in a practical way, Hannah instead sets out to help Martha to learn how to read. This shows Hannah getting her particular and rather peculiar'use'from Martha, as later Alfred and her husband get their'use'from herwhen Alfred shows Samuel photographs of Martha which we are led to believe are erotic. / The moral anomaly at the heart of their lives comes into sharp relief when they are visited by a wealthy businessman, Alfred Darby, and his protegée Sarah Worth, a former slave who was freed when Alfred bought her, and who is now on a lecture tour to promote the abolition of slavery. Set against all this is Hannah's own disenchantment with her marriage and her attachment to Alfred. The play questions the ethical merit of charitable acts by people who are wealthy on the enslavement of others. In this [it] is thoroughly contemporary since we all face this ethical dilemma [in relation to] the Third World. (p.285.)

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