Written by J.T. Rogers
Directed by Max Stafford-Clark
While looking down upon the Everyman stage moments before the beginning
of this play, which dramatises the build up to the genocide in Rwanda
in 1994, it struck me how the atrocity has become a spectacle for audiences
around the world. At least two films - one produced by the ever-caring
Hollywood - and now this play have been created detailing the horrors
that took place in a hellhole on earth.
Where does this desire to see the recreation of a massive bloodletting
derive from? When the horrors took place the rest of the world were either
ignorant of what occurred or were either indifferent (like the United
Nations) to the mass suffering which resulted in the murder of over 800,000
mainly Tutsis, with the Hutus being the perpetrators.
This apathy of the general populace to human carnage can be equally applied
to the situation in a number of hotspots today, namely Iraq, Afghanistan,
Darfur and DR Congo. Are we going to see films and plays about these war
zones in the years to come, pinpointing thousands upon thousands of people
being slain to dramatic effect, while little attempt was made by the so-called
superpowers to even help resolve the conflicts in question?
One major fault in the play was the failure to explain or indicate why
the two tribes despised each other, and why this ethnic hatred resulted
in the barbarities that took place, including thousands of babies having
their heads chopped off with machetes, the mass rape of women and children,
and the large-scale displacement of people from their homes.
Written by J.T. Rogers, with stage direction by Max Stafford Clark, this
National Theatre production in association with Out Of Joint is set in
Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. It is principally set around the life of
American academic Jack Exley (Matthew Marsh), who has moved to Kigali
with his family, and his search for his friend, local doctor Joseph Gasana
(Jude Akuwudike), who has apparently been killed.
Exley and his wife Linda White-Keeler (Tanya Moodie) and son Geoffrey
(Andrew Garfield), are soon embroiled in a region beset by lies, corruption,
the proliferation of AIDS and murderous intent, threatening their lives
and those of everyone based in Kigali.
The palpable tension inherent in the drama finally explodes at the end,
which has harrowing consequences, in what one character calls 'a beautiful
land’. Beauty and the beast indeed!