by Anders Lustgarten.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 26 October 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat, Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 October.
African aftermath probed with fully-stocked dramatic purpose.
It opens with a power struggle, the placing of a pot-plant becoming a trial of wills, in a shabby, constricted chamber. It’s a chamber for conflict and threat, as much extended cupboard as room, where the prisoner Gabriel intimidates interviewer Eunice.
Actual bloodletting happens offstage. Visible violence is largely vocal, with Gabriel’s shouts and stares and the heartily insincere laughter of government minister Moyo.
Recipients of this are Truth and Justice Commission members Eunice and Rob in 2015 Zimbabwe, where ZANU-PF are coming to terms with things after the departure of Robert Mugabe.
Gabriel acquired the ironic nickname of the title because, as a leader of the Green Bomber youth movement, he decided who lived and died, beside personally carrying-out gruesome executions.
This emerges as he grumbles and shouts at Eunice, nervous within her formal grey suit. The play’s lynch-pin, she also meets the high-ranking politician she knew as a child, and her boss (plus sometime lover), who is shifted upstairs to a non-job as the Commission, doubtless established to satisfy an international agreement, is sidelined.
Such manoeuvring is second-nature to Cyril Nri’s bright-shirted, suit-and-tie politician, surface bonhomie sliding away to steely insistence, the opposite of Paapa Essiedu’s terrifyingly intense Gabriel, who moves from hostile self-interest, through resentment at being the boots on the ground left out to dry when times moved on, to a final word of acceptance.
Amid their agendas (the men never meet) Debbie Korley shows Eunice honestly working for national progress, while knowing her privileged past provides a tender nerve for others to hit. It’s a fine performance, a brisk business manner seeking to restrain personal emotion, while Alexander Gatehouse efficiently shows the White Zimbabwean whose role is least developed by Lustgarten.
The play’s ‘Getting to Yes’ movement finally seems simplistic, while some of personal complications along the way seem like an overstuffed dramatic travel-bag.
Yet it’s an intelligent, and intelligible, play from a writer whose interest doesn’t stop at European borders. And its visceral force is pressured-up by the confinement of Max Dorey’s set and performances that often seem to be containing an impending explosion.
Gabriel Chibamu: Paapa Essiedu.
Eunice Ncube: Debbie Korley.
Rob Palmer: Alexander Gatehouse.
Endurance Moyo: Cyril Nri.
Director: David Mercatali.
Designer: Max Dorey.
Lighting: Howard Hudson.
Sound: Max Pappenheim.
Assistant director: Mark Dominy.