- Gareth K Vile
- 20 February 2019
Poetic evocation of civil terror
Nick Makoha, best known for his poetry collection Kingdom of Gravity, uses his autobiography to infuse this story of Idi Amin's regime in Uganda, following his escape from the country via a dangerous journey in an unlicensed bus. With a script that leaps between storytelling, poetic interludes and dramatised conflicts, the uneven structure demands that the cast of two, Akiya Henry and Michael Balogun, are frequently compelled to switch characters to present a more comprehensive vision of a society in the throes of civil warfare and state violence.
The political description of the state is muddied, although corruption and cruelty clearly define the experience of the populace: a pregnant mother, a European male, a teenage soldier and an older Ugandan man provide a kind of chorus behind the story of a young boy and his mother. Makoha's script, however, gives them little depth and motivation, and the bookends – of the mother and child arriving in the UK – introduce an entirely different story of integration and prejudice in the UK. Rajha Shakiry's design and Roy Alexander Weise's direction lend the play a surreal and suggestive atmosphere that offers an abstract, rather than precise, analysis of Uganda in the 1970s.
The production attempts to balance the abstract and the concrete, but falls between the two moods: the two performances hold together a linear plot and give space to the reflections on oppression and the compromises it demands, but the background of Uganda's conflicts is sketched rather than explained. Caught between political and personal drama, The Dark is an intriguing but partial journey into terror.
Seen at The Tron, Glasgow. Touring.