Truth and Reconciliation

Debbie Tucker Green
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs

Truth and Reconciliation

Writer/director debbie tucker green has never been one to address a problem head-on when she could look at it tangentially.

In truth and reconciliation, she takes on recent tribal atrocities in five different countries by recreating parts of meetings between families of victims and the perpetrators (or, in one case, his Mum).

In only an hour, a massive cast steps into and out of the limelight, sometimes almost randomly, as their stories are told and build to an unexpectedly moving climax in two final scenes that bring in a fresh and extremely revealing angle.

The audience surrounds the actors, who, like us, sit on hard wooden chairs. Quickly this has the desired effect as it becomes obvious that torturers and murderers look just like anyone else. This is so much the case that it is often impossible to discern a difference between aggressor and collateral victims or for that matter Sloane Square theatregoers, which is one of the play's messages.

Another is that a dead family member creates the same sense of loss and desolation anywhere, bringing about a desperate need for closure, which is why South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created and cloned elsewhere.

The story in that country is powerful, as a mother, played by Pamela Nomvete grieves for her dead teenaged daughter. However, her grief and anger are matched elsewhere, with Wunmi Mosaku as a condemnatory Rwandan widow delivering a speech that can do nothing but shock and chill.

More surprisingly, in one of the scenes from the short meeting in Northern Ireland, the real anger comes from Clare Cathcart playing a suicide bomber's mother, rather than a victim's shell-shocked parents.

truth and reconciliation can be too oblique for its own good and some of the sections are too slight to make a big impression. The evening leaves behind the impression that one has seen slivers of five plays cut into each other but there is too little development of ideas to have the impact that this material so richly deserves.

However, at its peak, this work does make one think about how state-sponsored and communal atrocities can happen, which is presumably why it was written.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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