A Season in the Congo

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A Season in the Congo 271My new book Dark Lands is coming out next week and my travels for the Democratic Republic of the Congo chapter took me to Kinshasa, Kisangani and Lubumbashi, all of which feature in A Season in the Congo, currently running at the Old Vic theatre in London. Of course at the time the play is set, the late ’50s and early ’60s, they were still going by their Belgian colonial era names: Leopoldville, Stanleyville and Elizabethville.

The play is rather better than the reviews seemed to say and although Patrice Lumumba, the doomed first president of the independent nation, is undoubtedly heroic the play also touches on his undoubted flaws. It’s a big, energetic (and rather long) production and I’m left a little puzzled by the playwright Aimé Césaire as he managed to juxtapose this attack on Western colonialism with a passionate and long term defence of French colonialism in his native Martinique. Every man has his price was my conclusion.