Sympathy for the devil

black jesusFollowing a slew of political dramas that look to the past or murky present, Anders Lustgarten has taken an intriguing approach by examining a possible future in his latest work, although – audiences be warned – it is a piece that necessitates a certain level of engagement with Zimbabwe’s history. In fact, the most common reaction to Black Jesus, premiering at the Finborough, may well be a quick trip to Wikipedia to fill in the blanks. Sadly, the emotional content makes far less of an impression than the political.

Set in 2015, the play gives us a promising scenario: crusading human-rights activist Eunice Ncube, representing the new Truth and Justice Commission, is questioning imprisoned militia leader Gabriel Chibamu about the atrocities he committed during Mugabe’s regime in the hope of identifying those who gave the orders, now likely ensconced in a new-look government. That Chibamu committed monstrous acts is beyond doubt; that he is the real monster in this scenario is open to interpretation.

The face of the apparently reformed government is Minister Moyo, played to chilling perfection by Cyril Nri. Moyo’s boisterous geniality overlays a clinical ruthlessness, which peeks through in elegantly veiled threats, and his well-crafted rhetoric concerning the philosophy of revolution and strategic use of information is as seductive as it is terrifying. “Knowledge is an explosive device,” he proclaims to Eunice, as he advises her to find a truth that suits their needs.

Read my full Bargain Theatreland review here

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