Bang Bang Bang, Royal Court, London
Wednesday 19 October 2011
Bang Bang Bang, Stella Feehily's bracing new work, erupts on to the stage with a cliff-hanger opening. We're made privy to a terrifying attack on two female human-rights investigators in their compound in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The piece then backtracks to dramatise the events leading up to this violent climax before pushing onward into its troubled aftermath.
Lifting the lid on the world of aid workers, charities and NGOs, this well-researched, empathetic and sometimes slightly contrived-seeming play focuses on Sadhbh, a 29-year-old Irish woman and seasoned Congo hand, whose mix of incurable idealism and wry, worldly ruefulness is beautifully caught by Orla Fitzgerald. When in London, she lives with her partner, Stephen (Dan Fredenburgh), a former aid worker turned consultant who wants her to concentrate on having a life and family of her own. To his dismay, though, Sadhbh is determined to return to the DRC, with Mathilde, a wide-eyed young French intern (excellent Julie Dray) in tow.
How could Stephen begrudge his lover the chance to make a vital difference by investigating alleged war crimes and gathering the testimonies of victims such as the eight-year-old Amala (Zara Brown), with her horrific story of abduction, rape and sex-enslavement? The trouble, according to him, is that there is always another Amala somewhere in the world. A missionary purpose can become a high-minded alibi for indefinitely postponing the fulfilment of duties to oneself and loved ones closer to home. And he's right about the dangers, as we witness when Sadhbh is forced to cope with the svelte intimidation of being summoned to tea by a Tutsi warlord (a drolly disconcerting Babou Cesay) who assures her that he merely does whatever is necessary to protect his people from genocide.
You feel, however, that though Sadhbh's motives are mixed and her prevarications cause pain, there is nothing cynically self-serving about our heroine's relationship with the region. This is in glaring contrast to the news men who fetch up at the drunken and druggy expat party that is one of the highlights of Max Stafford-Clark's sharp, fluent production. There's the ambitious, charmingly manipulative tyro photographer Vin (amusingly played by Jack Farthing) and Paul Hickey's hard-bitten hack, Ronan, who represents an industry that is more interested in stories about raped humanitarians than about atrocities against Congolese children.
To 5 November (020 7565 5000); then touring
Review: Of Mice and Men
By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work
Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar
What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?
Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings
The actor has confessed to his own insecurities
Allotments are the focus of a new reality show
Arts & Ents blogs
The best movies on Netflix: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
Mrs Doubtfire 2: Robin Williams set to star in sequel to 1993 comedy
Record Store Day 2014: Best exclusives coming to a UK independent record shop near you
Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Are you turning into your dad? The top ten signs you've embraced dad-ism revealed as survey says 38 is age men turn into their father
- 2 Overheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
- 3 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark