After premiering at Theatre Deli in spring 2019, Far Gone comes to the University of Sheffield this November as part of the Festival of Social Science. Read on for Emma Liasides's review of the premiere performance:
Far Gone is a one-man play written and performed by Ugandan born, London trained, and now Sheffield based actor and director, John Rwothomack. It tells the story of a young boy named Okumu from northern Uganda, who is captured and forced into becoming a child soldier for the Lord’s Resistance Army under Joseph Kony.
Performed in the round, the play takes inspiration from African oral storytelling traditions, quite literally inviting the audience to gather round to listen to Okumu’s tale, with cushions and chairs encircling the small stage. Young Okumi asks “if I invited you to come with me on a journey, a story, will you come with me?” and draws us in. We follow his transformation from an innocent little boy, to a new LRA recruit, to a hardened child soldier and junior commandant.
Rwothomack plays several different characters as well as the lead, including Okumu’s older brother who, after being killed, reappears as a spirit that helps Okumu survive; a senior commandant; and a well-established soldier in the commandant’s army. A great deal of work has gone into the physicality of the play – both in the posture and movement style of each of the characters and in the powerful physical depictions of the events in Okumu’s story. Rwothomack flits between being the subject and object of a single action – one moment he is the aggressor, the next he is the victim, creating layers of character action that build the scene in our mind’s eye on this deliberately stripped back stage.
The play’s plot and multi-faceted one-man portrayal also serve to highlight the cyclical nature of the tragedy, as victims become perpetrators. A young child is recruited and is forced into becoming a soldier who kills, who then becomes a commandant, who recruits young children that are forced into becoming soldiers who kill and on it goes. Far Gone is a physical, emotionally wrought play that asks us to gather round to consider the historical and political contributors to that cycle, together with the childhoods and the lives lost in its wake.
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