Camden People's Theatre (2009, 2011), Amnesty International (2012), Southwark Cathedral (2012) - all in London, UK
Matthew Lee Knowles
Daedalus Theatre Company
Choreographer: Cécile Feza Bushidi, with additional material by Jennifer Muteteli and other members of the company. Additional Writing by Alex Swift and members of the company. Devised by the cast, which between 2009 and 2012 included: Naomi Grossett, Jennifer Muteteli, Grace Nyandoro, Lelo Majozi-Motlogeloa, Anna-Maria Nabirye, Tayo Oyeniyi and Susan Worsfold. Main advisors: Désiré Katihabwa and Richard Wilson. For full credits see website.
What was the case study project about?
The piece was conceived as an attempt to understand the eruption of violence in Burundi in 1993: a major factor in the lead up to the Rwandan genocide. A friend of mine, Charlotte Wilson, was murdered by a militia in Burundi in 2000; her brother Richard’s investigation - an attempt to better understand the causes behind Charlotte’s death - and his resulting book uncovered huge gaps and conflicts within accounts of the events surrounding the 1993 coup and subsequent assassination of President Ndadaye. These problematic, ambiguous narratives felt like something that theatre could usefully explore, especially if we worked in conjunction with Burundian refugees, including our main advisor Désiré Katihabwa, experts, researchers and activists, including Richard.
The piece was also about conflicting narratives that revolved around a key event without ever fully revealing the central truth of what happened. The piece was performed on a table, around which audience, stage manager and cast sat together as equals. This was to both to signify and, in a very practical way, to enable the collaborative nature of the piece. But at one point, parts of the tabletop came off and soil was revealed underneath, triggered by a buried phone starting to ring. This was a dual symbol that suggested both the buried past (literal and figurative) and the idea that there was a hole, an absence, at the centre of our understanding of the specific events of 1993, and indeed of such huge, complex outbursts of violence in general.
Part one was a performance (on and in the table). In part two we shared food (from the fantastic African restaurant near CPT) and let people chat. Both parts were equally important.
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