Thursday 31st March 2022 at Harrogate Theatre (Studio)
“As a little boy, aged eight, I was nearly kidnapped from my home in Northern Uganda by the rebel group the Lords Resistance Army… This play is not about me, the kid who was lucky enough to escape. This play is for the hundreds of thousands who did not.” – John Rwoth-Omack, writer and actor
In Far Gone, written and performed by John Rwoth-Omack and directed by Moji Elufowoju, a young boy named Okumu is living in Northern Uganda with his family, doing what normal children do: playing, bickering with his older brother and having a laugh. When Joseph Kony’s Lords Resistance Army arrives in the village, Okumu’s childhood is cruelly taken and replaced with a brutal life as a trained child soldier.
Rwoth-Omack gives a powerful performance which sees him shifting between distinct characters with impressive agility – his voice moves as fluidly between four key roles as his body adopts their various assigned physical markers. Entire scenes are played out with Rwoth-Omack shape-shifting to take the place of each character in turn, outlining sequences of events which are fantastic in their ability to build connections between characters played by one actor.
Most distinct about this new work is its highly physical approach to storytelling which sees substantial scenes with no dialogue at all, allowing the story to be continued through emphasis on physical struggle before experiences are again given voice. It’s an engaging approach as movement direction from Akeim Toussaint Buck and Lilac Yosiphon highlights just how vividly a story and its highs and lows can can be captured through movement.
This is also a story told through evocative contrasts which are reflected brilliantly in production design. Sounds of a peaceful environment alive with natural sounds are replaced by victims of the army’s efforts to maintain power in the world conjured by Lee Affen’s sound design. Neutral lighting design from Will Monks is replaced by stark spotlights as sunlight beats down on a young boy fighting to survive. And in Rwoth-Omack’s writing, that young boy and his innocence are replaced by a trained soldier with a wisdom borne of coercion and corruption – his happy smile replaced with a fearful frown and his laughter replaced by guarded silence.
At its best, this is highly evocative work which allows for well placed light relief while also delivering a stark story of loss, and as a one man show spanning years of interactions between characters, this is very impressive new work for a talented and expressive actor.
Far Gone supports The Women’s Advocacy Network (WAN) of the Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP), which is “a forum where more than 900 war-affected women and men come together to advocate for justice, acknowledgement and accountability for sexual- and gender-based violations inflicted upon them during conflicts in northern Uganda.”
Photography by Smart Banda