We Are Proud to Present – reviews of genocide drama

Mar 13, 2014

Young American writer's excoriating play about a little-known genocide 'takes your breath away'

Keith Pattison

What you need to know
The European premiere of Jackie Sibblies Drury's hit US play We Are Proud to Present has opened at the Bush Theatre, London. Critics have called the play, with the full title We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884 – 1915, "inventive", "challenging" and "ingenious".

It focuses on a group of actors (three white, three black) who attempt to devise a theatre piece about the little-known first genocide of the 20th Century in which 80 per cent of the indigenous Herero tribe of Namibia were killed by German colonists. As the actors disagree about how to present this difficult subject, tensions mount and prejudices are revealed.

Gbolahan Obisesan directs the production, which runs until 12 April.

What the critics like

It's a taut, excellently acted production of an "inventive and challenging play", says Paul Taylor in The Independent. It throws up uncomfortable questions about colour and the victor's version of the past and who has the right to tell which story.

The drama lurking behind the play's deliberately unwieldy title is "a genuine short, sharp shock", says Siobhan Murphy in Metro. Obisesan's production adopts the trajectory of the best horror films, and by the end, Drury's excoriating drama "takes your breath away". 

It's "a deceptively playful script" from the promising the young American writer, says Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard. For all its surface frivolity, the play raises some profound questions about the viper's nest of prejudice lurking behind our liberal facades.

What they don't like
The most positive aspect of the play is that it draws our attention to a horrific, but still little-known, act of genocide, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. But while this Pirandellian take on the story is witty and ingenious, "it tells us rather too much about the theatrical process and too little about the actual historic event".

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