Civil War: A war between citizens of the same country… Imagine living in a country torn by the continual feeling of political unrest? Separated from your family, as rebels and the government team up and enlist family members of innocent civilians to fight against the ruling political power. In 1999, Liberia witnessed a second civil war, and by 2003, witnessed the dwindling of their 22nd Liberian President, Charles Taylor’s political reign.
When thinking of war, images of destruction, injury and death may immediately draw to mind. However, what of the millions of innocent civilians that find themselves caught up in the cross fire? Danai Gurira‘s Eclipsed zones in on a nameless rebel army camp. Gurira carves out the voices of five normally quietened characters, as Michelle Asante‘s matriarchal Helena, Joan Iyiola‘s busy body Bessie and Letitia Wright‘s youthful yet steely persona all work harmoniously with one another, as they ironically clash in personality and opinion. A strong sense of family persists throughout the production, considering that the three main protagonists all serve a purpose in terms of satisfying the camp leaders needs. Labelled as ‘wife 1’, ‘wife 2′, wife 3’, etc… this automatically suggests that these three heroines are powerless individuals, subservient to the patriarchal system of both the camp and the wider world, however Eclipsed successfully empowers the women in its world, depicting a steeliness and resilience that resonates throughout the entirety of the play.
Faith Alabi‘s ambitious and brainwashed Maima, a soldier convinced that a world of aggression will awaken a new dawn of female empowerment serves as a pertinent reminder of the war shaping the Liberian landscape at that moment in time. Switching from the charming Maima, to a tyrannical warrior nicknamed ‘disgruntled’, it’s clear that the concept of wealth eradicating all issues taints her view of the world. Flittered with themes that guide the audience on a series of pathways, Eclipsed addresses a series of issues. With a war waging on Liberia soil, the concept of battles, both physically and mentally within the microcosm of the rebel camp become ever more highlighted.
Status plays an underlying role throughout the production, as the wives, although rarely mentioned are pitted against one another in terms of favouritism. Each wife has a role in which they serve within the camp, continually taken for granted, they are made to feel as if they are small in terms of the grander scale of the rebels aims of a better nation. Their authoritative camp leader is only ever referred to, with the wives sadly yielding to his demands. A Big Brother-esque figure that appears to see all, their lives are dictated by him, their rights thrown away as they are seen as nothing more than playthings that can easily be thrown away and replaced in an instant.
Caroline Byrne directs a revolving door of the everyday, weaved in with unrest and comical relief. Richard Nutbourne and Chiara Stephonson collaborate to create the unforgiving climes of a rebel camp with harsh concrete surfaces and walls, with movable wooden tree trunks that transport the audience to the derelict expanse of the forest. An eye opening night at the theatre that is guaranteed to have you on a roller coaster of emotions. 4.5/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
Eclipsed is currently showing at the Gate Theatre until Saturday 16th May. For more information on the production, visit here…
For the interview with cast member, Joan Iyiola, visit here…