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.