Black Jesus at the Finborough Theatre
Black Jesus, a play by political playwright Anders Lustgarten, received its world premiere at the Finborough Theatre in Earl’s Court this week. The action centres on a man who goes by the name “Black Jesus” – a name given to him because of his power to control life and death in Zimbabwe during the Mugabe regime. His story unfolds slowly as he is interviewed by university educated Eunice Ncube who works for the newly established Truth and Justice Commission, and whose aim is to bring the other ringleaders of Chibumu’s gang to justice.
What unfolds is a fraught 90 minutes exploring how Zimbabweans from all walks of life were affected irrevocably by the Mugabe dictatorship. As the play goes on we are forced to see that the lines of innocence and guilt and right and wrong are blurred, and the truths of the past are much more hidden than is initially clear.
In the intimate setting of the Finborough Theatre, the cast command the stage and the complete attention of their audience. With only four characters and minimal action, there is much pressure to convince viewers through language alone of the real horrors seen and endured, and it is a relief to say that the combination of Lustgarten’s writing and the actors’ interpretations make for very compelling and authentic viewing.
On occasion, Lustgarten has a tendency to ram the political message down the audience’s collective throat, but what he is putting across is valid and relevant, and needs to be said: the liberal British media still portrays Africa and South Africa as arenas of political savagery, and many Zimbabweans are reluctant to delve into the past just as a guilty Britain wishes to forget it. This is unabashedly direct political theatre that forces you to sit up straight and be provoked into thought.
Black Jesus is on at the Finborough Theatre until Saturday 26th October 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.