'The Swallowing Dark' review or 'Your story doesn't suit the system.'

'The Swallowing Dark', Lizzie Nunnery
Theatre 503, Thursday 4th November
Written for Time Out 

Allyson Ava-Brown and Wil Johnson. Photo Credit: Christian Smith
Scenes of Mugabe's rule, as he addresses a thronging population, are projected against a decaying, plaster wall. It is such scenes – initially met with adulation and later with terror – that prompted Zimbabwean, Canaan, to escape to Britain with his son. But Canaan's refugee status is now under review and, if he is to avoid returning home, he must retell his story and revisit the horrors he once fled.

Care worker, Martha, must extract the truth from the frightened and white-hot angry Canaan. Lizzie Nunnery's new play, 'The Swallowing Dark', revolves around a series of interviews between the two, as they dance gingerly around some dark home truths.

Nunnery has come up with a neat but slightly brittle concept and Paul Robinson's production, despite some neat use of projections, begins to flatten out. There is an awful lot of shouting and confrontation but few softer moments, barring some brief flashbacks between Canaan and his now dead wife. The atmosphere is relentlessly fraught, as Canaan blazes with righteous anger in response to Martha's stubborn and systematic line of questioning.

Wil Johnson captivates as Canaan, who throbs with past but unforgotten violence. It as if he carries Zimbabwe's troubled history in his own, hunched body; he does not walk but march, does not talk but wail, does not touch but snatch. Allyson Ava-Brown is convincingly conflicted as care worker Martha but the relationship between the two, so pivotal in such a tight-knit play, never really develops beyond the professional. 
Martha tries to hide from the truth


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