With a little more finessing Chagos 1971 might be to the neo-colonialism what Dr Strangelove is to the Cold War.
Few people will know what happened on the small island of Chagos in 1971 but writer-director Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller aims to change that with his new play. Brought to life by Black Bat Productions, an emerging theatre company, Chagos 1971 tells a bizarre yet true story.
While the last of the Windrush generation – the hundreds of Commonwealth citizens invited to Britain to stimulate the British economy – were arriving on British shores, the citizens of Chagos were being constructively forced from their homes by the British and American governments.
This cutting and timely political satire tells an important story of British history with panache although this is not enough to distract from several issues with the production.
Although the venue, a small room in Zoo Playground, added to the 1970s setting of the play with a very khaki colour scheme the play could have been helped by more consistent costumes and sets to give the audience a better sense of who the characters are. For example, three characters are introduced in the first scene who might be soldiers; one of them has a gun but they are all wearing completely different clothes so it’s hard to know who or where they are and how they figure into the bigger story being told.
The political farce is played effectively for laughs, which are welcome when dealing with such a dark subject, but the tone of the play takes a hard right turn when discussing the moral and ethical implications of the situation.
While there are shades of The Thick of It and Dr Strange love in the writing, Chagos 1971 takes an uneven approach to telling an important story about to the neo-colonialism of post-war British politics.