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The Theatreguide.London Review

The Rise And Shine Of Comrade Fiasco
Gate Theatre     March 2015

In the 1950s there were occasional news reports of yet another Japanese soldier who emerged from some Pacific jungle where he had been hiding for years, not knowing that the war was over. 

Andrew Whaley moves that concept into 1980s Zimbabwe, and uses it to explore the ways we remember and choose to forget the past. 

Freedom fighter Fiasco emerges from his cave in 1986, eight years after independence, but he is not hailed as a hero. Instead, he is doubly resented, for reminding others of an unhappy period they have consigned to the past, and for skipping over the pains of nation-building and deprivation. 

Are there periods, even in the recent past, that a culture would prefer not to remember too clearly? (Ask any American over 60 about Vietnam.) 

Playwright Whaley and director Elayce Ismail make the story and the questions more theatrical, if perhaps less clear, by presenting them through the filter of another story.

Before his identity is known, Fiasco is thrown into a jail cell with the survivors of a drunken street brawl, and it is they who try to learn the identity of this newcomer. 

The process involves interrogating him, playing at being Good Cop/Bad Cop, speculating, acting out possible back stories for him and other devices, all with more amateur zeal than expertise and all while also playing out their own hungover joking, flirting and quarrelling. 

So moment to moment in the play jumps from one style and tone to another here comic, there angry, here in mime, there in dance, here realistic, there stylised.

It is never boring, but it isn't always clear, and you can't help feeling occasionally that it is being clever for the sake of being clever, not in service of the play. 

Meanwhile, the more individualised the prisoner-detectives become and the more we are immersed in the specifics of the jail cell, the less easily their reactions to Fiasco's emerging story can be extrapolated to a comment on the country at large.

The general point that the past is not always welcome is made, but it is not always clear how a given sequence is helping to make it. 

The performances by Gary Beadle, Kurt Egyiawan, Joan Iylola and Abdul Salis are passionate, energetic and engaging throughout.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - The Rise And Shine Of Comrade Fiasco - Gate Theatre 2015

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