The Dark by Nick Makoha
The Dark is a story that documents Nick’s personal journey from Uganda to the UK with his mother under the régime of Idi Amin in the seventies. Although Idi Amin is very much a backdrop of this play, we see the effects of living in a war-torn country whereby children are soldiers and civilians are fleeing for freedom.
I loved the set!
On stage right we had projected slides on the wall that illustrated Ugandan history – including the oppressive ruling. Underneath, the table the projector was on acted as a type of smuggling tunnel. At intervals Nick’s mother used this space and the radio microphone to encourage revolution and change.
Suddenly The Dark was not just a play documenting Nick’s perspective of events; but also a play that under a male oppressive regime, shined a light on a heroine – Nick’s mother, a mother who sacrifices her country and her marriage to save her son.
Only two actors play the many characters that occupy the bus that is situated stage left. Symbolic, maybe, of a two handed story between a mother and son.
The top deck held the passenger’s luggage (and the actors props for each character) and the bottom deck occupied the many characters.
Michael Bologun and Akiya Henry impersonate Nick’s mother, a young male soldier, a pregnant market seller and Nick himself amongst others. They do an excellent job of different physicality and accents for each – and I was never lost at who they were as they explained their different reasons of boarding the bus. Another aid was placing each character in a particular seat on the bus – and reminded me of the assigned seats in a classroom. That then triggered thoughts and feelings of order and dictatorship.
I particularly liked Akiya’s impersonation of a young boy soldier who initially held the bus at gunpoint – but then acted as a guard of the bus as he was deluded in thinking that Nick’s mother was his own.
I also enjoyed watching Michael impersonate Nick. As Nick’s character worked mostly as a narrator in the play, I was impressed at the detail Michael had taken in observing Nick’s personal attributes. However, I do feel that this was a privileged experience having previously met Nick and watched his poetry; I had a unique insight of these mannerisms.
I think one criticism I do have - is that I had to work hard to understand some of the nuances The Dark presented, as I am ignorant of the history of Uganda. This excluded and detached me slightly, as I was a beat behind where I wanted to be in the story - not being fully informed. If this were about Jamaica I would be outraged and screaming at any form of ignorance with the internet being… well world wide, so it is a lesson to me, I think to do some form of research!
With the recent Brexit debate and our biases towards immigration – I do feel that this play humanises that which Britain tries to alienate, and is well worth a watch!
The Dark – written by Nick Makoha and directed by Roy Alexander Weise (See my Nine Night review that Roy also directed) on at the Oval House Theatre until Saturday 1st December