A Place at the Table, Camden People’s Theatre
Between 1993 and 2005 the Burundi Civil War raged throughout this small East African country after the assassination of the first democratically elected Hutu president Melchior Ndadaye exacerbated the deep-seated animosity between the different ethnic groups of Hutu and Tutsi. But what inflamed factional contempt to the point of premeditated murder and warfare? With the estimated death toll standing at 300,000 people can we consider one group to be guiltier than the other?
Were the roots of ethnic hierarchy in existence before Belgian colonisation in 1901? In this Daedalus Theatre Company production we are invited to observe as these essential questions are explored; gathering around the United Nations conference desk, the radio broadcast box and the kitchen counter we try to discern the truth about this genocide as we take our place at the table.
This four strong team of actresses utilise every aspect of drama, dance and song as they take us on a journey from the dissociated media reports to the fervent eye witness accounts of the civilians who watched their homes razed to the ground. Each performer plays a number of key roles ranging from journalists, children, politicians, and soldiers, grieving mothers and even their own selves as the Burundi genocide are explored from every possible perspective.
Stunningly materially diverse, props and visual metaphors abound as candles are lit, maps drawn in chalk, food served, and there’s a particularly profound surprise lurking under the woodwork.
I especially loved a scene, which parodied cookery programmes to demonstrate the perfect recipe for a cycle of violence and destruction, Burundi adroitly represented by a sponge. Not only entertaining but educational, this is a play that teams with energy and creative force. The subject matter is grave and some of the content is shocking, therefore this is not a production for the faint of heart. The play tenaciously reveals the gaping holes in our knowledge of this subject as well as our readiness to accept the censored and more palatable news reports distributed by organisations with vested interests. An explosive production, powerfully revealing that in the case of war, however deeply we dig to discover the when, who and how, there still seems no legitimate answer as to why.
Cast: Naomi Grossett, Jennifer Muteteli, Grace Nyandoro, Adelaide Obeng
A Place at the Table is at the Camden’s People Theatre until November 19, 2011
Afridiziak Theatre News review of A Place at the Table, 2009