“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”- Assata Shakur
This poignant play by talented new-comer Kalungi Ssebandeke tells the story of a fictional relationship between ex black panther ‘Assata Shakur’ and Cuban teenager ‘Fanuco’.
Predominately a play looking into black politics and race relations, it also manages to take a broader look at identity as a whole. It instigates dialogue around the idea of forgotten struggles, blind ignorance to continued turmoil and acceptance of stolen liberty.
The confined space and presumably restricted budget at the Gate (in comparison to its West End counter parts) seems to lead to ingenious ideas for set design. As is always the way at this theatre, the scenery, staging, lighting and sound were exceptional. The moment you walk through the wood panelled corridor onto the Havana tiles, you are instantly transported to Cuba.
The show feels very similar to immersive theatre, while still having a clear stage/seating boundary leading to an incredible ‘fly on the wall’ viewing almost in the same vogue as Lynette Linton’s Chicken Shop.
A truly electrifying performance, the initial buzz of banter flowing between Fanuco and Assata is punctured by charged moments of passion, anger and desperation, which flare from each actor.
Adjoa Andoh (Assata) completely and utterly embodies the deathly defiant Assata. The drive and passion, which oozes from her is enormously inspiring and by the end I felt ready to go and fight for something, someone, anyone, who was facing persecution. She channeled all the charisma and intoxication of a true revolutionary figure.
Almost in complete contrast with that passion, drive and electric energy, Fanuco (Kenneth Omole) left me with an overwhelming sadness. His blatant lack of identity, confidence and self worth was deeply disheartening to see. Blinded by the ‘American Dream’ he fails to connect with the bigger picture of history which Assata tries to paint for him.
There are point in this play that moved me to tears. These moments spark through the play shocking you and just as grief, anger or pain flares and starts to course through you, it’s muted by a flickering light-hearted moment.
If you are looking for a play, which is impregnated with political consciousness, without being preachy or condescending, this is for you.
Seating wise you’ll get a great view wherever you sit, there’s not a bad seat in the house so there’s no excuse not to book your tickets, which can be found here