J T Rogers' play addresses the human condition. There is some dark comic relief in the absurd situations encountered by the American family who have up routed from Illinois to Kigali in the bid for the father to research a book on the work of his old friend Joseph Gasana, a (Tutsi) paediatrician. It is news to him that his old friend has a wife and has once been imprisoned. The situation in Kigali tests the American academic in how far he is prepared to go to help his friend who begs, 'Your coming now allows us to help to help each other. And we must help our friends, Jack. Always.'
It is enlightening to see such an insightful presentation of a situation where democracy does not easily translate. A population with a Hutu majority will always return a Hutu dominance at the ballot box. In fact the play shows how many things do not translate from the Western world to Rwanda, like a good glass of white wine.
To add to the confusion, the American couple (Jack and Linda) do not speak French. It is deeply metaphoric to consider how helpful this well meaning couple can actually be in a place they have only read about in a guidebook. Linda (Tanya Moodie) befriends an engaging stranger Samuel Mizinga (Danny Sapani) to make the most of her chance to explore Kigali. The actor Sapani excels at displaying the passion the Rwandais feel about their land. He encourages Linda to encounter after the rain the smell of 'earth and a sort of charcoal and Eucalyptus'.
The climax of this fast-moving production is at once powerful, intense and thrilling. The ending makes you want to renew your Amnesty International membership immediately. 'We say here, Jack, that every day God strides the earth, but at night he returns always to sleep in Rwanda.' If theatre can change the world then director Max Stafford-Clark shows us the way along with this inspiring cast.