Robert Tanitch reviews They Drink It in the Congo at Almeida Theatre, London N1
It would be a good idea to do a bit of homework on the Democratic Republic of the Congo before you arrive at the theatre or at the very least arrive early and read the programme essay and historical chronology before you see the play
Andrew Brace’s new, sprawling anarchic satire, directed by Michael Longhurst, is not the easiest play to follow. Complex would be an understatement.
Congo, with its rich source of minerals, should be rich. Instead Congo is ranked amongst the poorest.
A white middle-class Brit (Fiona Button) wants (as an act of personal atonement) to organize an Arts Festival to advertise the positive side of the nation; but she finds that even forming a committee is fraught with dangers.
She wants to get the Congolese on side but there are many factions trying to stop her because they know the Festival will be interpreted as support for the President.
She is a well meaning liberal but history, colonization and anti-government militants raise a formidable barrier. There are financial difficulties, too. Many people will feel that the money the Arts Festival is going to cost should be spent on much more urgent social problems.
There’s good support from Anna-Maria Nabirye, Richard Goulding and Richie Campbell. Suli Rimi, in a dazzling pink suit, is a striking, strutting figure and his exuberant solo dance gives the second act a kick-start
The Congolese speak in English at all times, but whenever they are meant to be speaking in their own language, there are instant sur-titles in their mother tongues – a neat solution.