A look at humanitarian workers and whether their work allows them lives of their own, Stella Feehily's Bang Bang Bang sees Sadhbh (pronounced like "scythe" but with a v,) an Irish human rights worker with nearly a decade's experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo¹, teamed up with French newcomer Mathilde. The play opens near the end, with the two women about to have a personal experience of the region's brutality, with the rest told in flashback: Mathilde (Julie Dray) is still idealistic and optimistic, easily upset by the horror stories they have to record in the hopes of convicting local warlord Jerome Mburame (Babou Ceesay.) Sadhbh (Orla Fitzgerald) is on the one hand more pragmatic, nervously accepting Jerome's invitation to tea and to size her up; on the other still feels a duty to the people of Congo. The flipside is provided by her boyfriend Stephen (Dan Fredenburgh,) who met her when he was also an aid worker, but moved home to London after his original stint ended with him traumatised. Both the fact that they barely see each other, and Sadhbh's belief that his new job betrays his principles, puts a strain on their relationship.
There's certainly a lot of food for thought and the play is always interesting, with strong performances in Max Stafford-Clark's production (Out of Joint are among the show's co-producing companies, and have been touring it) and I have to give special mention to Frances Ashman who doubles so many roles she's barely off the stage, and makes them all distinct. There's some comic relief when Mathilde hooks up with a young photojournalist (Jack Farthing) but his inexperience and impetuousness may lead to tragic results. Despite all this I didn't find this as emotionally engaging or powerful as last year's Ruined, which also dealt with the Congo.
Bang Bang Bang by Stella Feehily is booking until the 5th of November at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, and continues on tour to Exeter and Salisbury.
¹which lives up to the rule that if a country has "Democratic" in its name, it isn't