Bang Bang Bang
By Stella Feehily
Out of Joint
Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, and touring
There is a plethora of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) providing humanitarian aid to the war torn countries in Africa.
Stella Feehily's harrowing play Bang Bang Bang, deftly directed by Max Stafford Clark, explores the world and lives of these aid workers as they try to bring support and relief to the survivors and victims of the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The play explodes onto the stage with the dramatic arrival of a terrorist, rifle at the ready, speaking French and threatening to kill veteran aid worker Sadhbh, strikingly played by Orla Fitzgerald, and her young naive intern assistant Mathilde (Julie Dray)
The action switches back to a London flat, a month earlier where the strained relationship between Sadhbh and her lover Stephen (Dan Fredenburgh) is played out in this "rhythm of flat life in Islington." Both are always on the move undertaking new assignments to different countries and their lives are inevitably drifting apart.
The play returns to the Congo and focuses on the NGO's work to bring aid to the savaged villagers as Sadhbh records the horrors and genocide they have had to endure from the Tutsi warriors. There is a limit to what she can achieve but at least she can be a witness to the stories.
She manages to arrange a meeting with the infamous warlord Colonel Mburame, powerfully played by Babou Ceesay, with a menacing undertone as they have tea together.
Sadhbh tries to understand why he has allowed so many people to be massacred and the rape of young children and innocent women. It is a tense encounter that shapes much of the remaining play.
The arrival of the young ambitious photographer Vin (Jack Farthing), who is determined to make his name at all costs and have his photos published in the New York Times is contrasted by the sceptical and disillusioned journalist Ronan (Paul Hickey).
The resulting rowdy party where everyone gets drunk is a welcome relief from the horrors happening outside the safety of their compound.
There is excellent support from Frances Ashman as the compassionate Mama Carolina and the young children, old before their time, are impressive.
Miriam Nabarro's imaginative set of metal screens cleverly creates the Congo and the Islington flat and Andy Smith's emotive soundscape was vibrant and atmospheric.
Bang Bang Bang is a strong arresting production that was based on intensive research. It raises many political and humanitarian issues for the audience to unravel in what was an impressive and gripping play.
"Bang Bang Bang" tours to the Curve Leicester, Royal Court Theatre London, Northcott Theatre Exeter and Salisbury Playhouse.
Reviewer: Robin Strapp