For this tense, hour-long portrait of part-truths and semi-reconciliation in civil war zones, writer Debbie Tucker Green – who also directs – provides ringside seats for everyone.
The audience and actors line four sides of a white stage. ‘South Africa 1998’, ‘Rwanda 2005’, ‘Zimbabwe 2007’ and ‘Northern Ireland 1999’ are chalked on the wall in neat columns. As a black South African family take their seats centre stage, twitching with expectation, uncertainty, solidarity and palpable sorrow, it is evident that they know as little as we do about what, exactly, this quasi-judicial process of confession and forgiveness has to teach them.
There’s too much dancing around the subject here, with everyone speaking in fraught, amputated sentences, ducking round events which remain unspeakable. But that’s also the point: brutal truths emerge in these meetings between killers and their victims’ families, but the whole truth is unseeable and reconciliation, more often than not, unthinkable. There’s a glimpse of a process and of horrors old and new – but no time to delve deeper.
In a play which demands 22 actors but has no small parts, it’s inevitable that the quality of acting varies. Cecilia Noble, Pamela Nomvete, Fiston Barek and Vanessa Babirye are stunningly good as the South African Mama, Nana, son and daughter, seeking the body of their lost child.
I wish I had seen more of them: the play’s final punch is a long time coming, but it is they who pack it, with dignity and emotional heft.
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