As themes go, colonialism, civil war and genocide are not the lightest of fares. On the other hand, music, dance, puppets usually signal a frothier approach. In the Young Vic production of A Season in the Congo, a play by by Aimé Césaire, translated by Ralph Manheim and directed by Joe Wright, the two come together in an unconventional union. The result is engaging and enlightening, always interesting, often heartbreaking.
Play and production are not perfect: far too many scenes revolve around big speeches, some public, some private, speeches nevertheless. They sit well with the important themes of the play but stifle the complexities and subtleties of the human drama. The stylised action both opens up the imagination but occasionally blunts the impact. Not all characters get the sharp definition they deserve.
And yet, the story is so powerful, the staging so inventive and the lead actor so charismatic that the weaknesses fade into the background. Continue reading