A Place at the Table

A place at the table is exactly what you get in Daedalus Theatre Company’s haunting look at the origins and recent bloody history of the African Great Lakes region. The audience/performer divide recedes as you take a seat at a UN meeting in the mid 1990s about the assassination of Melchior Ndadaye, Burundi’s first democratically elected (and Hutu) president.

This hour-long devised piece borrows verbatim from the UN’s report on Ndadaye’s death and survivors’ accounts of the ethnic killings it precipitated. Initially, trying to keep up with the dizzying number of names and events mentioned is head-spinning. But a potent mix of poetry, song and dance soon knits this splintered narrative into something engrossingly complex and starkly beautiful.

Its vision of communities founded on myths as fundamental and sustaining as the land is vividly reflected in director/designer Paul Burgess’s stunning set. Characters clamber over and pull open this soil-filled table-top terrain in search of answers, human or divine.

Packing a punch out of all proportion to its length, this production doesn’t simplify the cultural fault-lines that were to crack catastrophically in Rwanda. Its un-showy cast bring to life with powerful immediacy the stories of those not able to speak for themselves, full of hurt, loss and hope.

First published by Time Out