Located in the heart of Africa, The African Republic of Congo has witnessed a tumultuous political history, having received independence from the French in 1960. In 1997, a civil war caused by the rising tensions of the then democratically elected president Lissouba and previous president Sassou shaped The Congo’s landscape, with thousands losing their lives as a direct result. Sassou is currently still the president making the voting process a questionable one. What may not be as well known about the country’s contribution to the technology industry is that it produces the minerals needed to power our phones. They Drink it in the Congo opens up a dialogue between the UK and The African Republic of the Congo, or much rather satirically attempts to via the ambitious and charitable aims of the play’s protagonist.
Plans of a ‘Comic Relief’ style campaign to bring awareness to the war torn Congo dominate the evening. Talks between Congolese representatives, humanitarians, press and PR depict the day to day battles of the country’s representation through ethnocentric and ethnicentric eyes. This is a an intricacy to admire, and a brilliant commentary on how a nation or a group of people can often be portrayed in a certain manner without having the finer details in place.
Adam Brace writes an ambitious piece of theatre. Running at just over 2 hours, the evening attempts to delve into a range of topics, from the Congo’s colonial history to its representation within the West, the concept of charity, to war, military groups and many more. Brace is satirical in his observation, however simultaneously carves out a modern hero who in her heart of hearts is so consumed in her world of what she deems to be right that she herself even misses the wider implications of her actions. Scenarios however don’t make enough of an impact. Glossy press launches and a suggested romance are tough to truly get on board with.
The heart of the production lies in a scene between a young girl (Joan Oyiola) and her father (Sule Rimi). Located in a humble family home, the harmonious setting is brought to a brutal stand still as rebels destroy the family’s home and heartbreakingly assault them. This is earth shattering, and married with Jack Knowles hostile, unforgiving lighting design and the stage design imprints the horror behind all of the gloss. Michael Longhurst directs a lively evening, with the emphasis placed on the collaborate and multi-rolling nature of the cast. The evening is filled with an array of characters however the emotional investment isn’t present. Longhurst quirkily places Rimi, an extravagant Sauper as a subtle protagonist and commentator of the evening around the action however again his omniscient power is lost. They Drink It in the Congo has plenty of ideas it wants to explore but just needs to be refined. 3/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
They Drink It In The Congo is currently showing at the Almeida Theatre until Saturday 1st October. For more information on the production, visit here…