I knew next to nothing about Adam Brace’s latest play, other than it was at the Almeida Theatre, a theatre I’ve wanted to go to for ages, so when my friend managed to swing us some discounted tickets for They Drink it in the Congo, I was there. And I’m really glad I’ve seen this.
The play opens with Stef (Fiona Button) attempting to organise Congo Voice, a festival which is aimed at shedding light on the plight of the Congo. However, with her PR consultant ex Tony (Richard Goulding), competitive fellow campaigners and the divided Congolese diaspora to contend with, things do not go as planned.
I studied the history of the DRC when I was at university, but this play does a great job at attempting to shine some light on the history of the country without feeling like one big exposition dump. It’s also a play that is full of light and dark comedy; it’s been a while since I’ve seen a play that can have me laughing out loud one minute and then almost in tears the next.
The acting throughout is great; all the performances feel just so natural and there is some fantastic doubling & tripling of roles by the ensemble. As the central organiser, Button’s Stef is incredibly sympathetic, even as she encompasses some of the problems that the Congolese have with white people trying to represent their country. Goulding gets some of the best laugh-lines of the show, even if his character’s discretion are brushed over a little too smoothly. Anna-Maria Nabirye and Richie Campbell are brilliant as Anne-Marie and Luis, two people passionate about their country but with radically different approaches to its issues. But the real scene stealer is Sule Rimi as a brightly-coloured dressed man who follows Stef everywhere; his performance both vocally & physically is excellent.
The only real issue with the play I had is that I felt that Brace perhaps didn’t quite trust his audience to grasp the message of the play, and the very final scene felt a little heavy-handed; which is a shame as the finale of Act 1 was brilliant. However, I would still recommend seeing this, the Congo is a country whose problems deserve more anger and action to undo them.