The Swallowing Dark

Liverpool Playhouse Studio Theatre
Written by Lizzie Nunnery
Directed by Paul Robinson
20th October - 29th October 2011

Reviewed by Colin Serjent
Photograph by Christian Smith

While watching this play in the newly relaunched Liverpool Playhouse Studio Theatre, it occcured to me of how the demonic dictator of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has dropped off the news agenda in this country.

Gadafi was rightly vilified as a psychopathic tyrant but Mugabe, whose crimes against his own people were, in some cases, equally as horrendous as perpetrated by the Libyan leader, has never received such condemnation.

Set on a very small stage, with only a table, three chairs and a filing cabinet as props, this new production by the talented local writer Lizzie Nunnery, deals with the plight of an asylum seeker Canaan (Will Johnson) based in Liverpool, who is in imminent danger of being deported back to Zimbabwe, along with his young son.

The only other actor in the play, his case worker from the UK Borders Agency, Martha (Allyson Ava-Brown) - who also plays his wife in orange tinged flashbacks - appears increasingly doubtful whether the reasons Canaan puts forward on why he should stay are justified.

These doubts are imaginatively captured in filmed recordings of previous meetings between the two of them, screened onto the back wall, with Martha making judgements of where he may have been lying or avoided telling the full story of his somewhat dubious role he played in his homeland.

The dark demons that have tormented Canaan are revealed when he vividly describes examples of butchery commited by Mugabe's henchmen. We are left unsure as to the full extent of the part that he played in these crimes against humanity.

In an intriguing sub-plot Martha herself has skeletons in the cupboard, in regard to her brother's vicious attack on another young man in Liverpool city centre. The memories of what took place are repeated in monologue form by her on a number of occasions, perhaps too many times - the point had been amply made earlier in the play.

Despite this slight reservation it is nevertheless a litttle gem of a play.

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