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Bold subject matter requires bold execution, a fact that I feel much socially-conscious theatre forgets. In equal parts due to its source material and engaging staging, this performance drives home its message like a wake-up call to the guts.
The subject matter: the lives and experiences of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is interesting enough that this material reaches us in the format of a play; docu-theatre is not one of the most common mediums around after all. Yet Like Enemies of the State demonstrates overwhelmingly that theatre can do justice to this sensitive material. In fact, the medium is very specifically used to disruptive effect, providing a welcome antidote to some of the banalities of documentary filmmaking.
The four actors do a solid job of jumping in and out of multiple roles, as we are shown snapshots from multiple perspectives. When greeted with unfamiliar material, it is particularly difficult to engage a theatrical audience.
Specific references to cultural traditions, institutions and governments that we are unacquainted with can become overwhelming; especially when delivered as concise monologues. Like Enemies of the State does a very good job of avoiding this all too familiar problem; firstly by easing us in gently with BBC-style reportage before we are introduced to the central characters.
Secondly, through actors breaking the fourth wall and interacting with the audience. After a church ceremony, the characters administer blessings to the audience, take off their caps and ask for collections. A child who has recently left the rebel army now makes his living selling petrol, and does the rounds of the audience, fixing your gaze with a hopeful look.