On the weekend I went to see a play with the longest title ever known to plays:
We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884 – 1915
The title makes little sense before you see the play (excuse my ignorance, but I never heard of “Herero” and I thought it sounded like a misspell of “Hero”), but it would become very clear once it starts. The title literally tells you what the play is about: the story of the Herero tribe in Namibia, at the time when the Germans arrived and started occupying the land, between the year of 1884 – 1915, when Namibia was called Sudwestafrika (in German), and before the British started to take over and rename the area to Southwest Africa.
So colonization story, you think. Yes, colonization, racism, and all that. In a way, it’s “nothing new”. But the way the story is told is nothing short of genius.
The entire play is acted by six people: A Black Woman, A Black Man, Another Black Man, A White Woman, A White Man, and Another White Man. This is told to you from the beginning, in a presentation format: We are going to play These Characters. You’d know straight away, there would be stereotypes, something would go wrong with the stereotyping.
These six characters then discussed about how they should tell the story of the genocide of the Herero in Namibia, because it’s a very important story that is known very little. Unlike the holocaust that has evidence and documentation all over, the only written documents left about the Herero are some letters written by White Men that provide a little glimpse into what happened.
In documentary style, sort of, we followed these characters trying to do improv to depict what happened, so we were seeing a play of a play, if that makes sense, in the similar concept as A Chorus Line (musical). It also reminded me of the recent BAFTA winning documentary The Act of Killing. The play showed friction between the characters and problems “behind the scene” in recreating this period of history. It bravely touched sensitive subjects – racism being always a sensitive subject – and the result was a very vibrant, fresh, and energetic stage play, with accomplishments in stage techniques like sound effects, use of various media, including live use of video camera, and very efficient use of stage and props. The pace was amazing. The characters were bouncing off each other seemingly with ease.
I really enjoyed “We are Proud to Present …” – a very well produced play. It is currently playing at Bush Theatre until 12 April 2014. If you live in London or nearby, hope you get a chance to see it. I’ve been to Bush Theatre before for South Literary Festival (which I did not write about unfortunately, but it was a good event), and I always love the sitting room. It has tables and couches, with shelves of books around the walls, and drinks available to get just in the next room. I just had to have tea after the play and sunk into a couch — a perfect closure after a great play.
Thank you to the team for providing me press tickets to see this wonderful play.