Stef Cartwright (Fiona Button) is organising CongoVoice, a festival in London to raise awareness of the long-standing atrocities and injustices that continue to face the Congolese people. But it’s hard enough for Stef to meet the one-third quota of Congolese on the committee, not to mention placating ally-powerhouse NGOs, dealing with ex Tony (Richard Goulding), and confronting the very real death threats from Les Combattants, a diaspora group campaigning against the festival. All the more, the phones and tablets integral to promoting the event are part of the problem: coltan, a vital technological ingredient, is a conflict mineral mainly found in the Congo.
Beginning with humour and light hypocrisy as complications arise with CongoVoice, the play takes a marked turn when Longhurst’s stage brilliantly collapses to reveal a Congolese mine. Yet the tragic shift is jarring and creates a rift that the second half fails to mend. Longhurst makes other powerful directorial choices: providing subtitles of English and Lingala present throughout, and casting Sule Rimi’s Oudry as a central, flamboyant personification of technological devices.
Rimi’s performance is a standout. So too is Anna-Maria Nabirye’s portrayal of Anne-Marie, a British-Congolese mother on the committee. While Button’s Stef is well crafted, and Goulding’s Tony provides comic relief, their characters are sadly underdeveloped with few redeeming features.
Brace, a white British playwright, understands the inherent problems when writing a play for a London audience about the Congo. Cleverly reflecting those very problems in the form of a non-profit event, Brace situates the play in an already problematic space -- ‘white words from black mouths’. He then attempts to negotiate the complex issues that surface when wanting, to put it simply, to do good. But if the play is a discussion on how difficult it is to raise awareness, it too is tasked with an almost impossible feat that it can’t quite surmount.
|What||They Drink It In The Congo, Almeida Theatre review|
|Where||Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street, Islington, London, N1 1TA | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Highbury & Islington (underground)|
12 Aug 16 – 01 Oct 16, 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£10 - £30|
|Website||Click here to book via the Almeida Theatre|