What an unrelentingly grim, godless, and miserable world we live in. If you thought Brexit was bad and Donald Trump was nightmare-worthy, take a trip to South African in the early 90s with Somalian refugee Asad Abdullahi, and then try to get yourself out of bed in the mornings.
Based on a true story, this is the long and gruesome tale of Asad who struggles to make something of his life despite witnessing the murder of his mother at the age of eight during Somalia's civil war in 1991. After this cheery start to his life, and the play, Asad is abandoned in friendless refugee camp at the age of ten, finds and looses his friendly cousin and suffers a storm of xenophobic attacks upon his business attempts in South Africa, where dreams of owning a truck.
Produced by South African theatre company Isango Ensemble and directed by Isango Mark Dornford-May, an ensemble cast of 23 singers and performers to give life to non-fiction writer Jonny Steinberg's book A Man of Good Hope. The company is a combination of untrained singers from the disadvantaged townships surrounding Cape Town and classically trained professionals. As with all Isango projects, the emphasis is on maintaining a strong African flavour and reflecting the continent's many (divergent) heritages. The music and singing throughout, particularly in the opening scene, is a highlight. Asad is played by four actors representing different stages of his life, from childhood to adulthood. Phielo Makitle, who plays the youngest Asad, is a heart-warming actor and steals the show.
Whilst a true story may offer a particular emotional poignancy, Asad's life can't easily be shaped into a flowing narrative. Instead comes across as a series of seemingly random events, which makes the play feel long and meandering (especially the first half) and offers too much in the way of misery and not enough hope.
There are moments of real joy, as well as bravery and personal accomplishment. At the very end, a sobering question is asked by the young Phielo Makitle (one of many young actors cast to play Asad as a child) when he demands to know who will tell the stories of the other millions of men and women who have suffered in this way.
This is an important play: emotional, moving and inspiring, that takes a cold look at our world. But certainly doesn't make for a light-hearted Wednesday night's entertainment.
|What||A Man of Good Hope, Young Vic|
|Where||The Young Vic, 66 The Cut, Waterloo, London, SE1 8LZ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Southwark (underground)|
06 Oct 16 – 12 Nov 16, Monday – Saturday at 7.30 | Saturday matinees at 2.30pm (except 8 October)
|Price||££10 - 35|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|