Review – Like Toy Soldiers, Chineke Theatre Company, University of Northampton Flash Festival, Hazelrigg House, Northampton, 23rd May 2017

Like Toy SoldiersIt doesn’t take much imagination to see how children can get swept up in the carnage of war. Their houses destroyed, their parents killed, their schools bombed; without their own assets or influence they are by nature among the most vulnerable sections of society. LiKE ToY SOLDiERS drives home the awful truth of children caught up in war in Africa; not only becoming the victims of the tools of war, but being forced to become child soldiers themselves. The attractions to manipulative war barons are obvious – they are fit and energetic, they won’t demand payment, their underdeveloped sense of personal assertiveness in an adult’s world and fear of reprisal will make them naturally compliant to the wishes of their superiors.

Kundai KanyamaThis short but hard-hitting play takes one such African child. We see her at home, with strict but loving parents. She panics about forgetting to do the errand for her mother because she will get into trouble and she’s the quintessential good girl. We quickly see her become a victim of war, as her family security is destroyed and she is forced into combats. We see her, armed and terrified, running alarmed at every unexpected sound. We see her forcibly raped, because children are easy meat to the vicious and the vile. And, somehow, we see her survive.

It’s a strong, clear, moving and elegant performance by Kundai Kanyama; not only telling a sad but important story but also acting as a showcase for her talents – I particularly enjoyed the lively but harrowing scene she played in a mask, for example. This is the kind of performance that lingers in your mind for a long time afterwards, as one by one so many emotions are played out, so many ghastly experiences have to be endured before our child can have a future again. Very effective, very impressive. Great work!

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