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Live / stage review

The Last King of Scotland, Crucible

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Photo by Helen Murray

Steve Waters' adaptation of Giles Foden's book about the dangerous, charismatic and psychopathic Ugandan leader Idi Amin uses a fictional relationship between Amin and Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan to tell the story of his eight-year reign of terror.

Initially Amin is hailed joyfully by Ugandans and he styles himself as the man who could place the country centre stage in the global economy. Garrigan finds himself the dictator's doctor and subsequently his uneasy advisor and confidant. Of course, Amin's charm is a thin veil for sadism, cruelty and a chilling and paranoid madness. What is left unsaid is why Garrigan chooses to ignore the mounting evidence that his premiership is turning into a blood bath.

Tobi Bamtefa plays a spellbinding and terrifying Idi Amin. The audience laughs with him, an uncomfortable reaction. When he isn't on stage, the play lacks drive and feels confused, like something is missing, perhaps an appropriate parallel to what it was like living under the coercive control of the Butcher of Uganda.

The scene in which Amin's wife Kay and her lover beg Garrigan for an abortion and his refusal to do anything that may cause harm is chilling, as the threat of Amin's wrath hangs over them. The result is the most graphic and upsetting scene in the play. More questions are raised when Garrigan will not use his closeness to Amin to bring him down and ultimately ends up being complicit in the genocide that became the legacy of Amin's presidency.

Bamtefa is unquestionably the highlight of this play, supported by some excellent acting from Akuc Bol as Kay Amin and John Omole as Peter Mbalu-Mukasa. The production reminds us what a dictator looks like and how vital it is to remember what we are capable of if we turn a blind eye.

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