We just saw the Young Vic production of A Season in the Congo
, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, and like Darryl
I am blown away. It is a fantastic piece of theater, which effortlessly manages to be several things at once: a biopic of Patrice Lumumba's life, a modern version of a Shakespearian tragedy, a measured indictment of the appalling racist hypocrisy that was European colonialism, and a sexy, physical piece of song and dance.
I do not agree with Darryl that Lumumba is portrayed as a Christ figure. He comes across a deeply flawed person, who was instrumental in liberating his country from the Belgians but then showed abysmal judgement in all his subsequent decisions. That the author, himself a leading black activist, was able to depict one of the great black heroes in this way convinced me far more than any routine hagiography could have done. This was black people talking honestly to black people and graciously allowing non-blacks like me to listen in.
The bold staging underlined the message. All the actors were black, with the ones playing white people wearing grotesque pointed noses; the narrator spoke only in Swahili, with other members of the cast interpreting for him. It was extremely risky - if it had gone wrong, it would have been a disaster - but in fact it worked brilliantly. At the end, several black members of the audience leapt to their feet and applauded frantically. Most of the whites followed them. I have rarely witnessed such a sincere standing ovation.
Bravo, Aimé Césaire!