Chagos 1971 (3 stars)

This article is from 2019

Chagos 1971

Shameful British history re-visited in this dark political satire

If it's hard to believe the actions depicted in this black political comedy, then you're underestimating Britain's ability to ride roughshod over another nation. Because while the words spoken in the series of government meetings shown here may be fictional, the subject matter is unbelievably real.

Set in Chagos, a group of islands in the Indian Ocean purchased by Britain from Mauritius in 1965 (in itself an unfathomable act), the show focusses on a single afternoon of debate by government officials and civil servants.

Having promised the islands to the US military, Britain had to deal with the small matter of what to do with the island's indigenous people. When the locals refused to leave their homeland of their own accord, the British Government sent them a mafia-style message that relocation was an offer they couldn't refuse.

Young playwright Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller may be tackling history in this new work, but it's timely – the treatment of 1,500 Chagossians, and promised reparation, was debated in the House of Lords earlier this year.

Performed in such a small space, the play has little room to breathe physically – but it's also constrained by time. Black comedy may be a good vehicle for such a story, but moments of dramatic tension would also serve it well and pack more of a punch – and there's currently no time for that here. Some performances are stronger than others, but commitment to the drama (and humour) is solid throughout.

ZOO Playground, until 26 Aug (not 22), 4.10pm, £10 (£9).

Chagos 1971

  • 3 stars

Black Bat Productions This is a bizarre, unbelievable, but true story – and a darkly hilarious play. In 1971, representatives of the US and UK governments made a heinous decision somehow still unheard of in either society today. After promising the Chagos Archipelago to the Americans a few years earlier, the British…