A seasoned humanitarian worker and her idealistic young colleague get ready for a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. For Mathilde it’s an induction into a life less ordinary. For Sadhbh it’s back to madness and chaos away from her lover and London – exactly as she likes it.
But while Mathilde lets off steam with a photographer and a spliff, Sadhbh (“Sive”) has her own encounter: tea with a smart, brutal young warlord she’s investigating. Or is it the other way round?
Stella Feehily brings her trademark wit and emotional insight to this revealing new play that goes behind the public face of charities, journalists and NGOs. In a two week workshop, Feehily, Stafford-Clark and a group of actors interviewed aid workers, doctors, human rights defenders, government advisers, journalists and photographers.
She was last at the Royal Court with Catch, O Go My Man and Duck. Her other credits include Dreams of Violence (Soho Theatre) and Game (Fishamble).
Max Stafford-Clark is a former artistic director of the Royal Court, where his work included the premieres of Serious Money, Top Girls and Our Country’s Good. His productions for Out of Joint include The Big Fellah, Talking to Terrorists, The Permanent Way, Shopping and F***ing and the world-touring, Africa-inspired Macbeth
Bang Bang Bang is a co-production with the Royal Court, Out of Joint, The Curve, Leicester, The Octagon, Bolton and Salisbury Playhouse.
Running time 2 hrs 15mins approx, including one interval
£10 Monday available on the day of perf from 9am online, 10am in-person.
Returns may be available at the Box Office for sold out performances
5-17 September: Octagon Theatre, Bolton
21-24 September: North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford
27 September – 1 October: Nuffield Theatre, Southampton
4-8 October: Curve Theatre, Leicester
8-12 November: Northcott Theatre, Exeter
15-26 November: Salisbury Playhouse
Select a Date
Dates in October
|Tue 11 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 12 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 13 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 14 Oct 2011||7:00pm||Press Night||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 15 Oct 2011||3:00pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 15 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 17 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10. Tickets released 9am|
|Tue 18 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 19 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 20 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 21 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 22 Oct 2011||3:00pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 22 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 24 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10. Tickets released 9am|
|Tue 25 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 26 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 27 Oct 2011||3:00pm||Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 27 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 28 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 29 Oct 2011||3:00pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 29 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Mon 31 Oct 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£10. Tickets released 9am|
Dates in November
|Tue 1 Nov 2011||7:45pm||Captioned Performance||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Wed 2 Nov 2011||7:45pm||Post-Show Talk||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 3 Nov 2011||3:00pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Thu 3 Nov 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Fri 4 Nov 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 5 Nov 2011||3:00pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
|Sat 5 Nov 2011||7:45pm||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs||£20|
Sold out Performances
Mondays all seats £10 (available on the day of perf from 9am online, 10am in-person.)
Concessions £5 off (available in advance for all performances until 15 Oct inclusive and all matinees. For all other performances, available on a standby basis on the day)
School and HE Groups of 8+ 50% off (available Tuesday–Friday)
Access £12 (plus a companion at the same rate)
soldier / warlord / innocent
Michael / Ronan
bibi / mama
Child Soldier / Amala / Child
Child Soldier / Amala / Child
Child Soldier / Amala / Child
Child Soldier / Amala / Child
4 stars The Sunday Times, by Jane Edwardes, 23rd October 2011
Stella Feehily’s engrossing new play explores what happens when aid workers are sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where volatile warlords, some of whom were once victims themselves, are committing appalling atrocities. Orla Fitzgerald is fiercely convincing as Sadhbh, whose job is to collect evidence of crimes against humanity. Max Stafford-Clark’s tense production takes no prisoners as it rapidly moves between the various locations: the Kivu compound, where Sadhbh is based; Goma, where NGO workers and journalists rowdily relax; and Holloway in London, where Sadhbh’s lover is weary of always saying goodbye. Their struggle with geographical distance is underwhelming. But when Feehily explores the scratchy relationship between locals and interlopers, the needs of a cynical media that is only interested in white catastrophes, and, most crucially, whether Sadhbh’s humanitarian work makes her less of a human being, the play bursts into furious life. 4 stars The Times, By Libby Purves, 18th October 2011
This painfully real play shows Westerners stepping into a moral chaos of genocide, revenge, opportunism and altruism
The prologue prefigures the climax: rogue Congolese militia have invaded the compound. Two women cower: the older one, Sadbh, briefs the young intern Mathilde and hastily tots up money and valuables. “We give them everything. Talk to them. Tell them you are a married woman. Tell them you are a mother. Talk about Jesus.” “Déshabillez-vous!” shouts the soldier and Mathilde screams: “This can’t be real…”
It is, though. Kidnapped MSF staff are being sought on the Kenyan border as I write, and Stella Feehily’s play is painfully topical. The women, collecting witnesses for a human rights NGO, seek usefulness but also professional excitement. The strength of the play, which grows in retrospect, is how it allows ambiguities of motive and behaviour as young Westerners step into a moral chaos of genocide, revenge, opportunism and altruism.
Sadhbh (an impressive Orla Fitzgerald) wants a baby but loves her work. Imprudently she interviews a smooth, vicious young warlord. Mathilde (Julie Dray) is a PhD theorist, unversed in the dark complexities of Africa. They take statements from refugees , then travel for “R & R” down-country (“Humanitarians by day — wannabe 17-year-olds by night” says Sadbh’s boyfriend as she passes out drunk). Mathilde picks up Vin, a freelance photographer with all the sensitivity of a breezeblock, who wants atrocities and rape victims to sell to the Sundays. Advised by an old-stager to “bed one of the aid workers — they’ve got security, the houses, the cars and the contacts”, Vin embarks on a very funny drunk and stoned seduction scene: ironic against the coming disaster.
It is not a piously approving account of aid workers, but painfully points up the ambiguities as Babou Ceesay brilliantly doubles the part of the arrogant warlord with Innocent, the smiling black butler clearing up bottles, fag-ends, pizza detritus and vomit after the party like any colonial servant. Equally impressive in quiet dignity is Frances Ashman as Mama Carolina, her immaculate headscarf contrasting with the teen-wear of the white girls as she translates for a raped child. These people have no options: the Westerners do. Sometimes you agree with the battered reporter Ronan: “That’s all the Congo needs. Another mental female with a big heart.”
It does not feel unfair, though, just thoughtful. Max Stafford-Clark’s direction is delicate and subtle amid simple staging. It awakens you to the pity, dignity and terror of Africa. 4 stars Exeunt, by Kevin E.G. Perry, 18th October 2011
North Kivu, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is an awfully long way from Sloane Square. Stella Feehily‘s Bang Bang Bang plucks us away from the environs of the Royal Court and plunges us straight into that world in a tense and claustrophobic opening scene: a pair of terrified female Human Rights researchers trapped together as gunfire sounds and armed forces close in.
It is the beginning of an emotionally gruelling first half which then skips several months back in time to introduce our protagonist and set in motion her voyage to that personalised hell. Sadhbh is the experienced lead researcher whose drive and resolve remain even as her personal life quietly detonates and her professional life explodes rather more dramatically. Orla Fitzgerald’s portrayal ably balances Sadhbh’s determination with her self-doubt. Sobbing in her arms in that opening scene is Mathilde, played by the beguiling Julie Dray, whose bright-eyed idealism is chipped away by a series of increasingly harrowing experiences.
While there is a litany of horrors, they are never overly sensationalised. The play is dense with research, and it’s difficult to guess which of the lines are of Feehily’s own invention and which have been plucked from the hours of interviews which she conducted with aid workers, journalists, photojournalists, human rights defenders and government advisors. Three years ago she presented some of those interviews here as the verbatim piece ‘Think Global, Fuck Local’ but her decision to develop a stand-alone play is fully justified by the power of the narrative. In squeezing all that research into one story, however, the characters are arguably a little too neat in their portrayal of certain character types. Sadhbh’s long-neglected boyfriend, Stephen, provides the cynical counterpoint to Mathilde’s initial optimism, while characters like Sadhbh’s mentor Bibi and local community leader Mama Carolina are never much more than idealised sketches. While Feehily has obviously chosen to focus the play on the experiences of the aid workers, it is a real shame that no Congolese character is ever given enough time to let us establish a real connection. A particular mention should be made of the excellent, understated work by designer Miriam Nabarro who has herself spent time in the DRC. The details she introduces, from the beer bottles to the design of the simple living spaces, all ring perfectly true.
Having dragged us through the mill in the first half, the opening of the play’s second half is not only much funnier than what has gone before but also introduces the media, widening the scope of the play. They arrive in the shape of experienced foreign correspondent Ronan, played with scene-stealing verve by Paul Hickey, and a young photographer named Vin whose hopeless naivety, coupled with Jack Farthing’s excellent comic timing, produces some of the plays funniest lines. The arrival of the press is essential to the questions that the play wants to pose, because it is people like Ronan and Vin who end up being charged with somehow connecting the worlds of North Kivu and Sloane Square. As we inexorably return to the fear and violence of the opening scene, and then on to the guilt and recriminations which follow, we begin to understand the impossible task which aid workers and journalists face in trying to have what Ronan calls “a grown-up debate about the C-word in the aid world”. As Sadhbh tellingly retorts: “Corruption is a red herring, Ronan. For God’s sake – don’t print stuff that will stop people giving.”
That entreaty sums up the position of aid agencies who on one hand claim to loathe the dehumanising effects of the stereotypical images of Africa: of famine, of babies with flies in their eyes, and yet at the same time rely on those same images to raise funds. Having a grown-up debate about the effectiveness of aid and the success of Universal Human Rights doesn’t have to mean that people stop giving to charity. What the debate does require is for people to pay attention to smart, funny and honest storytelling like this. North Kivu is still an awfully long way from Sloane Square, but by humanising the people who dedicate their lives to working there, Bang Bang Bang does its part to lessen that gap. 4 stars Time Out, By Nina Caplan, 17th October 2011
In a fragile encampment in the violence-riven Democratic Republic of Congo, Sadhbh, a spunky Irish aid worker busily ruining her personal life in the service of a greater cause, gathers testimony from abused women and children with the aim of putting a warlord in prison.
Her actions may accomplish nothing; worse, she could be endangering her witnesses as well as herself. ‘Think like a human being not like a humanitarian,’ begs her frustrated boyfriend, but Sadhbh cannot separate the two, and the question of whether her failure is laudable or crazy hangs in the air like gunsmoke.
Flicking between London and the DRC, between frantic partying and dreadful danger, Stella Feehily’s carefully researched play places Sahbh on the horns of a very real dilemma, and Orla Fitzgerald is both sympathetic and infuriating as she wriggles there, somewhere between bravery and foolishness, but a plane ride away from indifference.
The cast is excellent, from Julie Dray’s idealistic intern to Paul Hickey’s cynical journalist, well aware that one endangered white woman makes better copy than ten raped Africans. Under Max Stafford-Clark’s smart direction, the only clanking comes from Miriam Nabarro’s astute set, its mobile metal walls as hard and cold as gun casings, and as ineffective a form of protection.
Tue 11 Oct, 7:45pm Wed 12 Oct, 7:45pm Thu 13 Oct, 7:45pm Sat 15 Oct, 3:00pm Sat 15 Oct, 7:45pm Sat 22 Oct, 3:00pm Sat 29 Oct, 3:00pm Thu 3 Nov, 3:00pm Sat 5 Nov, 3:00pm
Tue 11 Oct, 7:45pm Wed 12 Oct, 7:45pm Thu 13 Oct, 7:45pm
Fri 14 Oct, 7:00pm
Sat 15 Oct, 3:00pm Sat 22 Oct, 3:00pm Sat 29 Oct, 3:00pm Sat 5 Nov, 3:00pm
Thu 27 Oct, 3:00pm Thu 3 Nov, 3:00pm
Tue 1 Nov, 7:45pm
Wed 2 Nov, 7:45pm