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I had before me a quite remarkable evening of theatre

Review by Paul Nelson

ONCE again, the tiny Finborough Theatre has presented a gem to those who care about theatre.

I Have Before Me A Remarkable Document Given to Me by A Young Lady From Rwanda is a stunning evening of drama, presented by two actors, and set mainly in an appalling place neither you nor I would wish to be seen in.

It's an office, a Refugee Centre, as impersonal and daunting as the old Labour Exchanges were, and to it comes Juliette, a Rwandan woman with a book she wants to be published.

The book is presented to Simon, a poet, working at the Centre, but, unfortunately, it is in a language he does not understand so he asks for a translation.

When it is translated, it is virtually a list of events, no drive, no story, just a catalogue. It is by following his instincts, he finds Juliette a person with a command of descriptive powers, that she rewrites the book.

During the course of this, Simon finds he is attracted to Juliette, but in effect that has little to do with the narrative.

The driving force of the play is one of understanding.

Rather like Brian Friel's play, Translations, though really without any similarity other than two people who do not understand each other come to an amicable arrangement, the play is a serious attempt to break down barriers and in that it succeeds.

The play is written by a sure hand. Its references to the genocide of the Tutsi by the Hutus are vivid and frightening. Why is nothing being done about it even at this late stage?

I defy any red-blooded person to remain dry-eyed at the final moments of the piece. Rather sinisterly, it tells us that once upon a time there was a paradise, almost a biblical promised land, but it had a thousand hills.

Gracing this play are two performers who know their onions. The smooth and talented Andrew Hawkins is perfect, but to a greater extent, along with the wide-eyed acceptance of wonderment, the sincerity of Doreene Blackstock makes you want to see the play over and over.

I Have Before Me A Remarkable Document Given to Me By A Young Lady From Rwanda by Sonja Linden. Directed by Drew Ackroyd, Designed by Nicholaos Zavaliaris, Projections by Dimitrios Theoharis, Lighting Matthew Haskins, Sound Jane Watkins. WITH Andrew Hawkins (Simon), Doreene Blackstock (Juliette). Presented by iceandfire theatre company at The Finborough Theatre, The Finborough, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10. Tickets 020 7373 3842.

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