The Last Queen of Scotland
Stellar Quines, National Theatre of Scotland and Dundee Rep
In 1972, Ugandan leader Idi Amin decreed that God had told him to expel all Asians from the country, giving them just 90 days to leave. Performer Rehanna MacDonald tells the story as a victim of this order, born in Uganda but uprooted as a young child and ending up in Dundee. Her parents had lost everything, arriving with just £7.
However she starts the story with a street brawl in which she had to hide out in a pub from a real "psycho" who wanted to hurt her. She imagines what it was like for her mum and dad living in Africa compared to the cold, unfriendly streets of Dundee. Amin was, bizarrely, obsessed with Scotland, hence the name of Giles Foden's novel The Last King of Scotland, and our Scottish storyteller becomes obsessed with Amin and what he did to her family.
She decides she has to write about Amin to purge him from her system, deciding on poetry as the form in which she wishes to tackle it, but to do the job properly she needs to trace their journey from Uganda. Her first stop is Kent, where they were first placed in a refugee camp on arrival, then to Leicester, where many of the refugees ended up. However this isn't enough; she has to go to Uganda and see for herself where she nearly grew up.
There is some vagueness about how she gets there and how she gets to see such high-up officials and experts, but she speaks to someone who knew Amin personally and eventually finds where she thinks she used to live—only to have a shock when she gets home. But she completes her poem and, ironically, feels more at home in Scotland after her experiences.
The piece is really a solo show, with a stunning, tour-de-force performance from Rehanna MacDonald, but also on stage is Patricia Panther, who fills in some background and linking music from a laptop and with her voice. There is some use of set and props which isn't really necessary and sometimes holds up the storytelling.
It's an interesting play based in part on the experiences of its writer. Some parts of the plot are glossed over or unclear, not helped by the very strong Dundee accent, but overall it tells an interesting and important story.
Reviewer: David Chadderton