Writer: John Rwothomack
Director: James Ngcobo
Last weekend Roots Mbili Theatre brought a work in progress performance to the Crucible Theatre’s stage. The company presented the first act of John Rwothomack’s new play about African soldiers in World War II,Never Look Back, followed by an engaging Q&A session with the creative team behind the show.
John Rwothomack’s script is fantastic. It finds the perfect balance between being hard hitting and emotional, whilst finding moments of warmth and humour. Director James Ngcobo brings the play to life wonderfully. Despite it being a work in progress performance, he has still found lots of depth in the material and staged it in a very engaging way. Jade Hackett’s movement direction adds to this, adding further depth to the production. Hackett adds movement as a creative way to depict the moments of conflict without showing gruesome scenes on stage unnecessarily. Mpilo May works hard as musical director and it pays off completely. The music throughout, created by both May and sound designer Lee Affen, is beautiful and the live music was performed stunningly by the talented cast. Will Monks must also be given credit for his brilliant lighting design.
At the heart of the play is a relationship by a grandfather who fought in the War, Komakech ‘Abba’ Ogwang (played by Trevor A Toussaint), and his granddaughter Anena Gladis (brought to life by Akuc Bol). The relationship they have is truly believable and heartwarming. Although their opening scene could be tightened up a little, the characters are used effectively to explore generational differences. Toussaint brings a level of class to the stage, whilst Bol does a tremendous job at playing both a modern young professional and a younger version of Ogwang.
Jake Wilson Craw holds command of the stage very well as Captain Bob Springfield and Captain Black. The troop of soldiers, who are played by John Kamau, John Carter, Eshy Moyo, Ivan Oyik, Mpilo May and John Rwothomack, have a believable comradery and rapport between themselves. Each one of them gets their moment to shine, many giving moving performances.
This reviewer, for one, already can’t wait to see the show in full and, judging off the response of the 500+ audience (which is unheard of for a workshop performance, so well done Sheffield!) there are many others already in the queue to buy tickets.
As of yet, future plans for the show haven’t been announced but this show, as well as the talent cast and creative team, is definitely one to watch.