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 The Theatreguide.London Review

truth and reconciliation
Royal Court Theatre   Autumn 2011

Truth and Reconciliation was the programme instituted by the new South African government in the 1990s, under which atrocity-committing representatives of the old order met their victims or victims' families in the hope of providing some closure, through apology, forgiveness or just the answering of questions.

In her new play, debbie tucker green imagines this experiment not only in South Africa but also Bosnia in 1996, Northern Ireland 1999, Rwanda 2005 and Zimbabwe 2007. In her vision, however, things do not turn out as hoped, the accused generally defiant and unrepentant, even to the point of twisting the knife further by blaming the victims, lying about their deaths or simply not showing up.

It is a stark and unrelenting play, interweaving five stories into its one-hour length so that we repeatedly meet the survivors or mourners and watch their hopes for some sort of emotional closure dashed. 

A couple of the stories, like that of the Bosnian rape victim, are barely sketched in, while the others divide their focus – and strongest acting opportunities – between villains and victims, the Rwandan scenes dominated by the viciously unrepentant torturer played by Ivanno Jeremiah and the Irish by Clare Cathcart as a mother who can only defend her son by attacking his accusers, while the South African story comes to a head in the eloquent demand of a mother – Pamela Nomvete – for information about the more than twenty-year-old disappearance of her daughter. 

The brevity of the play is both a strength, in concentrating its message, and a weakness, in denying us a fuller understanding of the characters. The playwright herself directs with a sure hand and unrelenting darkness.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -   truth and reconciliation - Royal Court 2011

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