Political playwright Anders Lustgarten, one of the Finborough's writers-in-residence, proves himself deserving of his position with his new play Black Jesus.
Delving into the corruption and devastation of one of Africa's most notorious regimes, Black Jesus is set in Zimbabwe, 2015, when Mugabe's reign has left citizens far from satisfied.
Eunice Ncube, a member of the Truth and Justice commission, finds herself investigating Gabriel, the self-proclaimed ‘Black Jesus' and the most infamous member of the Green Bombers alleged to have committed some of the most shocking atrocities. Set up by Mugabe to silence people connected to the opposition, Gabriel, who was once a youth with great prospects, now claims he is ‘Black Jesus' as has the power to decide who will be saved and who will be condemned. Ncube finds that not everything is plain sailing and corruption, secrets and lies are still there to disguise hateful crimes.
Thought provoking and intense, director David Mercatali does a brilliant job keeping us in suspense. The intimate setting and exquisite attention to detail in the design (Max Dorey) lend a sense of authenticity to the Zimbabwean office setting. But, although I was impressed by the set and the performance, I was left somewhat dazed by the plot. Heavily political, those who are only vaguely familiar with current affairs may get lost in the action. There also remain some inconsistencies, such as why the government allowed this commission to begin in the first place when there was the potential for their crimes to be uncovered.
Very hard hitting, Black Jesus opens up more devastation behind the events than meets the eye. References to Canada and a Mugabe-Cameron similarity open the play up to be received by a western audience rather than being solely focussed on Zimbabwean politics. Papa Essiedu (Gabriel), Debbie Korley (Eunice), Alexander Gatehouse (Rob) and Cyril Nri (Moyo) all give faultless performances in an intriguing one-act play which left me curious as to the current state of Zimbabwe and the politics surrounding the country.
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