THEATRE: They Drink It In The Congo

Written by: Sophie Taylor

A festival within a play where the director feels like the main character.

Just another evening. White words from black mouths. And everyone enjoys a little visit to Congo. But nobody has to go there. That’s what this event is. And it has no value.
North Four, North London magazine, They Drink It In The Congo, play, Almeida, theatre, review

They Drink It In The Congo is a new play by Adam Brace about a group of Brits attempting to stage a festival to raise awareness for the conflict in Congo. The play itself, considering the current Congolese conflict, post-colonial guilt, middle class guilt, white guilt and Western interventions is dripping in self awareness.

Taking my seat in the impressive yet intimate Almeida, I go to switch my phone off how very polite of me but not before firing off an excited little tweet about press night at the Almeida. “Looks like a full house tonight!” I type, or something equally original, accompanied by a generic snap of the bar area. It gets a like.

I shove the phone in my bag under my seat and forget about it for an hour. I find myself sitting next to the warm and chatty Assistant Director, Taio Lawson and we joke about me storming off in the interval, declaring the show a failure. Chuckle chuckle.

North Four, North London magazine, They Drink It In The Congo, play, Almeida, theatre, review

Character Anne-Marie opens the show:

“Just another evening. Rich whites and Conglais. Dressed up smart to hear people talk about Congo. White words from black mouths. Maybe watch a rumba. And feel bad because of the problems. And feel good because we are caring. And everyone enjoys a little visit to Congo. But nobody has to go there. That’s what this event is. And it has no value.”

Which is just the start of this chillingly meta experience. At one stage a press conference within the play is almost postponed and the festival threatened by a committee member’s physical injury. Here we sit on a press night rescheduled due to an injury endured by a member of the cast, watching a play about the Congo written by a white man and listening to character Anne-Marie recite his words (real name Anna-Marie). Coincidences left, right and centre stage perhaps, but it’s already getting under my skin. 

North Four, North London magazine, They Drink It In The Congo, play, Almeida, theatre, review

We are reminded that one of the main sources of conflict in the DRC is the Congolese minerals found in everyday Western technology, such as coltan: a black tar like mineral that our mobile phones and almost every other kind of electronic device are made with. It’s coltan that keeps them so light (and breakable). My flippant tweet starts flailing around in my head like a regrettable party guest who’s outstayed their welcome.

So who is the main character? Is it Stef (hard working and versatile Fiona Button), the Kenyan born white girl with a trust fund suffering from middle class post-colonial guilt? A character that some have referred to as disingenuous and aloof, which is quite possibly the point. Are we supposed to sympathise with her, or with Anne-Marie (expertly played by Anna-Marie): the first to talk and the character dealing with the issues first hand? Or is it Oudry (a captivating and flexible Sule Rimi) the voice of technology throughout, dressed like a sapeur and who plays the victim and source of Stef’s displaced trauma stress?

North Four, North London magazine, They Drink It In The Congo, play, Almeida, theatre, review

I don’t leave my seat in the interval. There’s a lot to digest. The Assistant Director has disappeared briefly, but I have so many questions! I try to stuff in some more information, quickly skimming through the programme. But the phrases African Diaspora and Hellenistic culture running around my mind are slowly replaced with the happy, upbeat rhythms of a live band that have gathered upstage. Musicians Joseph Roberts, Crispin Robinson and Alan Weeks play original music inspired by the Congo and underscore the remainder of the show. At the end of the first act the stage implodes in on itself with the weight of self reference and a traumatic flashback thanks to Jon Bausor’s dexterous set design. Although the mood has shifted during the interval (cue audience returning to their seats bopping, laughing and clapping along to the beats) this gaping wound remains centre stage.

Comedic relief is found in well timed physical humour, cock jokes and British self deprecation but the take away, hard to swallow issues are assertively driven home. 

North Four, North London magazine, They Drink It In The Congo, play, Almeida, theatre, review

Eavesdropping on reviews of the play I find that perhaps the point has been missed by some. I would argue that stating Adam Brace’s conclusion is that we shouldn’t attempt to help in case we cause offence, was not his intention. Simply turning a mirror on cultural attempts to assuage guilt and do a Bono / Jessica Hynes from Twenty Twelve, however, might be.

Is squeezing out a load of tears from some middle class people the answer? I think this play is acutely aware of the fact that it’s not .. We’re conscious of the fact that we are doing our best to tell a story that’s not ours, and to see if that’s useful.

Director, Michael Longhurst for Vice Magazine

North Four, North London magazine, They Drink It In The Congo, play, Almeida, theatre, review

I’m not about to throw my phone away, have a good cry and tweet about it on my laptop. But I am aware of how light that coltan feels in my pocket now.

Which is handy as I’ve got a lot of reading up to do on it.


They Drink It In The Congo at The Almeida Theatre until 1st Oct ’16.

Tickets here or from box office: 020 7359 4404

Photos by Marc Brenner

Close up of brisket burger being held in two hands at Brave Sir Robin for North Four Magazine
Eat & Drink

Eat/Drink: A Love Letter to Cue Point and Brave Sir Robin

When danger reared its ugly head, Brave Sir Robin turned and fled… to his namesake pub on Crouch Hill for a craft beer and a top-notch meal from kitchen residency Cue Point. Warm globes of light hang above intimate booths, specially commissioned wall design offers a rich backdrop, and cosy sofas, deep armchairs and plentiful cushioned stools ensure no one is without a seat.

Bahn Mi Baguette at Pho Hot Vietnamese restaurant in Holloway North London shot for North Four Magazine.
Eat & Drink

Banh Mi and Friends at Pho Hot Holloway

Flocking to Holloway Road on one of the many Sundays that we’ve spent at the Nag’s Head Car Boot Sale, we spotted a new Vietnamese place called Pho Hot getting ready to open up their doors. Being the nosy folks we are, we peeked inside and spotted a menu. Banh Mi was on it. It's a baguette, but not as you know it. Glory of all glories! It’s been far too long since I last consumed this distinctive sarnie and I'm happy as Larry that there's a new Banh Mi joint on my doorstep.

Lee Garrett standing on stairs with window in background for North Four Magazine

Top 4 Tips to Protect Your Skin From London Winter!

Baby, it’s getting cold outside, and what better way to aide our frostbitten noses than a chat to a professional skin person? We’re talking to Lee Garrett, founder of The Garrett Clinic, accomplished skincare specialist and heralded by many as the UK’s leading Skin Guru. Read on to find out his insider tips for surviving this winter season with your skin looking as radiant as the moon that breaks a stormy night.

Illustration of tank with duck in it reading 'peace is coming' at Atom Gallery for North Four Magazine

Tomorrow's World at Atom Gallery

Joined by over 50 other artists incorporating printmaking, painting, digital art, photography and small-scale sculpture, Tomorrow’s World presents us with utopias, dystopias, predictions, prophecies and visions of the future. We hit up the private view last Friday and it was pretty damn bleak, in the best sense of the word.

Brave Sir Robin Opening 14th December 2017
Eat & Drink

Local Thinking, Craft Beer Drinking: Brave Sir Robin Launches in Crouch Hill

Carouse founders Chris, Theo and Ben – the charming folk behind Kentish Town’s Rose and Crown – have a new venture afoot and we couldn’t be more bloody excited to see it. We’ve been creeping in their windows, peering through the paint and sneaking glimpses at builders’ bums for a few months now (okay, maybe not the last one), watching these guys transform this cosy corner of Crouch Hill into a rather cool little boozer. Now they’re opening and everyone is invited. Come one, come all, and try all 20 of their beers on tap with us.

Back of persons head with cigarette tucked over ear

Body Hammer: Clubbing, but not how you know it

Last month I decided to try clubbing again. I don’t quite know what came over me, but I actually (brace yourselves) enjoyed it. I went to Body Hammer’s monthly party in Manor House and I’m here to tell you to go too, whether you love clubbing, hate clubbing, or really couldn’t care either way. #notspon

Close up of person shoving a stuffed potato skin into her mount at Skins in The Magic Roundabout for North Four Magazine
Eat & Drink Events

Go Your Own Way at Skins' Fleetwood Mac & Cheese Night

Rich, fried, buttery, potato-y vessels loaded with flavor combinations that go down rather well with craft beer, late nights and good times. Ha, who am I kidding, EVERYTHING goes down well with beer. You heard that right buddy, loaded potato skins are back with a bang (and a generous portion of bacon) and are currently being served at Old Street's The Magic Roundabout by street food pop-up Skins and we could not be any happier. Well, unless they were to stuff it with, say, Mac and Cheese or risotto. Oh, that's exactly what they do? Well paint me green and call me a cucumber.

Christmas Gift Guide by Pretty Shiny Shop in Stroud Green North London
Lifestyle List

A Very Pretty Shiny Christmas Gift Guide

Magical gifts, wonderful gifts, marvellous gifts, beautiful gifts, gifts, glorious gifts glo-ri-ous giiiiiifts. Please Sir, I want some more. It’s that time of year again and whether you love it or loathe it gifts will be purchased and presented into expectant hands. Stroud Green's very own Pretty Shiny Shop have compiled a gift guide to help ease the shopping shock. Imagine only having to trot to your local gift shop and tick off your entire shopping list in one fell swoop. Done, finito, terminado! To make it that little sweeter, it's also all very affordable... so you won't even have to pick a pocket or two.

Three people clinking plastic glasses in the air in a tent with people in the background at Thor's Tipi Bar in Regent's Place
Eat & Drink Events

Drink, Feast, Conquer, Repeat. Thor's Tipi Bar Has Arrived.

Alright guys, it’s happening. The frosty charm of December is, once again, being beaten to a pulp by the capitalists’ wet dream: Christmas. The hideous twinkling of artificial outdoor lighting is starting to appear, with tourists flocking from far and wide to watch D-list celebrities press a button. Invitations to Christmas parties flood in from your multiple part-time jobs, ensuring you make bad decisions bi-weekly til next year. Supermarkets are selling 12-day advent calendars containing confetti, cookie cutters and candles for a flawless £50. And oh, how the mulled wine flows.

Girl peeking through gold and pink balloons at Top Balloon in Shop Stroud Green for North Four Magazine
Eat & Drink Events

Shop Stroud Green Christmas Trail 2017

Who doesn’t love a cheeky statistic, correctly sourced? You know we do. Well, did you know that for every £1 spent with a small business, 63p is re-spent in the local area, as opposed to a measly 40p in every £1 re-spent locally with larger businesses? An absolute travesty, am I right? That 23p has to mean something, right, guys?! Guys? Guys, where are you going? Wait, there’s freebies involved too!

Eat & Drink Events Lifestyle List

Top 4 'Christmas is just a bad excuse for a' Winter Markets

By gum there are a lot of winter markets this year. Fueled by sickly sweet mulled wine and overpriced pulled pork sliders, we’ve managed to wade our way through the murky waters of winter markets and find some decent looking ones round this here part of town. Don’t let our Grinch-esq vibes put you off (I’m more of a Pancake Day person myself) because, if you’re into markets, you’ll probably like these. Read on, if you’re merrier than us.

The Vinteriors team and Mary le Comte at Moseyhome in Finsbury Park, North London for 'Style My Shop'.

Style My Shop: Vinterior x Moseyhome

Take a short walk along Finsbury Park’s own sunset strip and you’ll find MoseyHome, an interiors retailer and styling consultancy who have invited us to collaborate with them on an exciting new series titled 'Style My Shop', in which they invite some of London's most talented interiors experts to quite literally style their shop. Interiors porn at it's finest.

Eat & Drink Events List

Top Five "It's That Time Of Year Again" Things To Do This Winter

Why was the snowman sad? Because he had a meltdown. Much like us, every year, when winter comes. It’s cold, it’s dark, and we know Christmas is on its way. But hey, it’s not all bad – the events round this time of year can be pretty swell. So don your scarf-shawl-blanket and get your frolic on, it’s time for fairy lights, scarfing mulled wine and stuffing your face!

Hand feeling colourful splashes of artwork at Smith and Sinclair Flavour Gallery
Culture Eat & Drink Events

Suck it at The Flavour Gallery

Touch, taste, smell, hear and create art. Smith & Sinclair, purveyors of the Edible Cocktail, presents The Flavour Gallery: a multi-sensory adventure that’ll seduce your senses and tickle your taste buds beyond all imagination. Ooh matron!

Hodgepodge on Crouch Hill, North London. New restaurant opening November 2017
Eat & Drink

New Opening: Hodgepodge Crouch Hill

Offering modern British cuisine with a smokey twist, Crouch Hill's newest contender to its foodie scene, Hodge Podge, is all minimal styling and hearty yet inventive dishes.