Review: From Zimbabwe With Love, by Michael Angus Clarke, Sir John Mills Theatre, February 9, 2018

Michael Angus Clarke, writer and actor, in his one-man play From Zimbabwe With Love. Photo: Will Dow

Michael Angus Clarke, writer and actor, in his one-man play From Zimbabwe With Love. Photo: Will Dowe - Credit: Archant

In this one man show, actor and writer Michael Angus Clarke takes us on a journey from Zimbabwe to East Anglia courtesy of the beautiful game.

Michael Angus Clarke, writer and actor, in his one-man play From Zimbabwe With Love. Photo: Will Dow

Michael Angus Clarke, writer and actor, in his one-man play From Zimbabwe With Love. Photo: Will Dowe - Credit: Archant

The set design of this show is simple – a map of Africa, a net of footballs, a beautiful woman and photo of home. However it speaks volumes about Robert, a Zimbabwean man who comes to East Anglia to play football for Norwich City. Despite the inevitable wealth and pitfalls that could await him, Clarke creates an uplifting narrative for Robert who has a profound understanding of himself and his place in the world. And from this perspective we are not only rooting for him every step of the way, the jaded narratives of Faust are replaced with something altogether more inspirational and hopeful.

Michael Clarke’s characterisation of Robert is gentle and humorous. He is so utterly natural and believable as Robert it feels like we are in a genuine conversation rather than witnessing a performance. But Robert gives us a great show too. His story telling is powerful and revealing when describing life in Zimbabwe and his escape through football. He gives us hilarious moments that highlight his discovery of social media and the great equaliser of music, dancing and romance.

Robert is an everyman character in a Jimmy Stewart vein. His presence is noble and honest. A man whose values have been shaped by his Shona tribe and remain intact maybe because of rather than despite the trauma historical exploitation, civil unrest, poverty and a de facto dictatorship. His values and belief that “a liar is worse than a thief” in a world that seems driven by artifice and greed make this story begin to feel epic: An ordinary person to whom extraordinary things happen.

Recommended.


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Jackie Montague

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