York Theatre Royal – until 4th March 2022
Reviewed by Aimee Liddington
Far Gone is one-man show, written and performed by John Rwothomack, who was nearly kidnapped from his home in Northern Uganda by Joseph Kony’s rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army. The 1980’s were a time of great trouble and turmoil in Uganda and through his abduction of hundreds of thousands of child soldiers and religious extremism, Joseph Kony managed to seize power in the northern region of Acholiland and still remains at large today.
From the minute the audience enters the studio, they are charmed by the innocence of a squeaky voiced boy called Okumu who asks them to come on a journey with him. Very quickly, the audience is also introduced to the character of the commander who requires them to answer when he speaks to them and throughout the play cues are given to which the audience must answer as a chorus. The entire experience is mesmerising– for 60 minutes you are with Okumu and you join him as you feel his joy and naivety turn to despair and desperation.
The immense talent of Rwothomack is a sight to behold – with a bare stage, minimal costume and only a handful of props, Rwothomack still manages to transport the audience to Okumu’s world and paints an imaginary set in thin air. Through the use of every muscle in his body he is able to change character in a matter of seconds and each portrayal is more believable than the last. The fight scenes are the most breath taking and special mention should also go to the director, Mojisola Elufowoju and the movement directors, Akeim Toussaint Buck and Lilac Yosiphon. Without their careful consideration of each snapshot of each scene, the picture would not have been so clear to the minds eye.
Lee Affen, the music and sound designer, should also be congratulated for his perfect use of sound to match Rwothomack’s movements. Particularly in the scene where the commander is loading a gun – there is no physical gun to be seen on stage but the magazine is loaded and the shots are fired with real credibility.
The subject matter of this play is undoubtedly heart wrenching but Rwothomack still manages to include humour and it really is true that he takes the audience on a journey with him. From start to finish you cannot help but be possessed by the story and performance. Far Gone is an educational, emotional and entertaining experience and I’d recommend it in a heartbeat.
I’d like to end with the following poignant quote from ‘The Night Wanderers: Uganda’s Children and the Lord’s Resistance Army’ by Wojciech Jagielski: “The youngest ones are best suited to it, like him, eight…nine years old, not more. They are already independent and strong enough to understand and do what they are told. And at the same time, they are still too young to tell the difference between good and evil.”
Rwothomack has written this play for the lost children of Joseph Kony’s regime and asks for anyone who is moved by the narrative to support the work of the Women’s Advocacy Network (WAN) who are committed to supporting the thousands of people affected by the unrest in northern Uganda.