Starting in the palace, Paterson Joseph's splendidly swaggering Jones - in gold-braided military regalia - plays power-games with Paul Wyett's Smithers, a ratty little white trader in a colonial helmet. The Emperor boasts of his newfound supremacy, of stashing wealth in foreign banks and being worshipped by the local tribe who are dissed, with black-on-black scorn, as "dem fool bush niggers". He is, in fact, an ex-pat American convict who has clawed his way to the top. But the tribe is turning. Jones, on the run again and lost in the jungle, grows mad with terror and frantically repentant, tormented by memories of slave auctions and chain gangs, and by spectres of the men he has killed.
This short, spiritual journey play, directed by Thea Sharrock (a candidate tipped to take over the Royal Court), is narratively skeletal yet arresting, aided by eerie sound effects - the rattle of gaming dice, like bones. Wyett could be sharper but Dwayne Barnaby is electric as the avenging, nightmare witchdoctor - bristling with feathers, leaping like a puma. And Joseph is stupendous: increasingly feverish and ragged, slamming against the walls, wailing like a child, covered in dust like a ghost of his former self. KB
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