The Dark by Nick Makoha – review
Ovalhouse Theatre

Words by: Ronke Lawal | Published: Monday, November 26, 2018 14:40

The Dark is a multi-layered, multifaceted production.

The poetic fluidity of the play was beautiful

With a powerful opening we are taken on a journey of escape, community, family and power. Set primarily on a Matatu (minibus) during the peak of Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda we enter a world of personal struggles and a journey through the darkness, a darkness which manifests through human experience and human relationships. We truly get a sense of the authenticity of the backstory, which is based on playwright Nick Makoha’s own life experience of being smuggled out of Uganda by his mother.

This authenticity is framed sublimely by the set design, the stage format and the direction, which were phenomenal. Women featured heavily in the play which reflects how important and influential African women are in communities and families, despite patriarchal notions of control. Another key theme which was highlighted was the experience of being a refuge and immigrant which is timely given the current climate in the Britain at present with the Windrush crisis, the history of migration post-colonial independence from African nations and the atmosphere surrounding Brexit.

This authenticity is framed sublimely by the set design, the stage format and the direction, which were phenomenal.

It is fascinating that whilst this play is set nearly 40 years ago these stories never change. I enjoyed how the theme of colonialism was touched upon in the play with the key question “Did Africa have a story before the colonialists arrived?”, the need to define ourselves as Africans without the colonial lens despite seeking refuge from the colonial leaders when our own leaders fail us. The poetic fluidity of the play was beautiful with the interspersion of vintage photo slides. Michael Balogun and Akiya Henry were superb on stage. They managed to play a cast of many, exceptionally well, with gusto and a passion that kept the audience engaged.

At times it was difficult to keep track of character development with some of the most colourful characters, perhaps it would have been more powerful if there was an emphasis on fewer characters and a focus on the core story of the mother and the son.

This is a play worth seeing and will leave you wanting more.

NEED TO KNOW: The Dark is at Ovahouse Theatre until December 1, 2018 | see listing | book tickets | get £9 tickets until 27 Nov using promo code ‘Dark9’ when booking online or when you call the box office: 020 7582 7680.

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