Johnson, a young native in the British civil service, is a clerk to Rudbeck, Assistant District Officer in Nigeria, and imagines himself to be a very important cog of the King's government. He is amusingly tolerant of his fellow Africans, thinking them uncivilized; he is obsessed with the idea of bringing "civilization" to this small jungle station. Johnson loves the white man's ways and cheerily adopts them; he has an enthusiasm that makes his boss Rudbeck overlook his rather vague office talents. This enthusiasm centers especially upon the construction of a road (symbol of civilization) and when Rudbeck has difficulty in getting funds from HQ, Johnson does some manipulation with the books. His peculiar sense of bookkeeping, together with his disdain for regulations, lands him in trouble. He gets the road built but is discharged. In despair and anger at being fired by his "good friend" Rudbeck, he gets drunk, and accidentally kills a white store owner. He is condemned to death. Rudbeck tries to save him, but "justice" cannot be reversed. Johnson is caught between two cultures, belonging no more to the new Africa than to the old. He begs Rudbeck, whom he looks upon as a father, to shoot him rather than let him be hanged by a stranger. Rudbeck, seeing him for the first time as an individual, grants this last request and ends the boy's life.
Produced successfully both in London and on Broadway. A colorful, funny and ultimately moving play which, with subtlety and warmth, delineates the conflicts which result when European civilization is imposed on an eager but unschooled African native. "One of the most astonishing, imaginative creations of modern theatre." —NY World Telegram & Sun. "A lovely, touching and absorbing play…" —NY Daily News. "…curiously haunting…inescapably moving…" —NY Post.