Caro Meets Spoken Word Interview Theatre Interview

Nick Makoha: The Dark

By | Published on Friday 16 November 2018

This week at Ovalhouse sees Fuel Theatre presenting ‘The Dark’, a piece from award-winning poet Nick Makoha that tells the story of the journey he made with his mother from their home in Kampala, to flee Idi Amin’s violent rule in Uganda.

The show sounds amazing, and as soon as I heard about it, I was determined to find out more about this highly personal account. I put some questions to Nick, ahead of the imminent run.

CM: Can you start by telling us what to expect from the show – is it poetry, storytelling, theatre?
NM: I am a poet so the story has poetic elements in the narrative. It is a semi-autobiographical, so it is an immigrant story that fuses poetry and theatre. In the same way that ‘The Odyssey’ is a poetic telling of the hero Odysseus’ trials and tribulations after the Trojan Wars by the poet and philosopher Homer.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the content – what story do you tell?
NM: I am recreating for you the journey my mother and I took in 1979 when she smuggled me out of Uganda during the last year of the Idi Amin dictatorship. It waves several narratives of people that were on the matatu (mini-bus). Two performers play multiple characters in the piece; my mother and her companions on the bus are the missing, lost and displaced, those who have suffered eight years under the violent rule of Idi Amin. We share in their stories of allegiance and conflict, echoing out through the darkness.

CM: Have you chosen to emphasise particular themes through it?
NM: Roy, Fuel Theatre and myself are putting the following question under the microscope: When does a person stop being a native and become the other/ the immigrant, the outsider? This is a conversation that is often brushed under the table and I did not want to do that with this play.

CM: Is everything in it based on truth, or are there fictional elements?
NM: All the characters are real but they were not all on the bus, but events like this did happen. I weaved incidents together so that they would follow us as we went on this journey through the night.

CM: What is it like, telling your own story? Does revealing yourself come naturally, or is it a difficult process?
NM: I did not intend to write this story. The story is spoken about in passing in a poem I wrote from my debut poetry collection ‘Kingdom of Gravity’. I think it is always hard to look at yourself without flinching and see what is really there. I think the uncomfortableness comes from prolonged focus and as an artist I had to give myself permission to integrate personal areas of myself. I told the story because I felt it was important to share it with the world.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about your creative process? Did you just sit down and write this? Or is it not that simple?
NM: ‘The Dark’ took two years to develop. I wrote various drafts for Fuel Theatre. We shared three scratch performances and Roy Alexander Weise came in as the director very early on in the process and joined me on a trip to Uganda as well as a writing residency at Coombe Farm. Coombe Farm are particularly interested in stories of migration.

CM: How does your relationship with your director work? How does the fact that you wrote and perform it have an impact?
NM: The director is integral to the process. Roy helped me bring the story to life on the floor. He was very hands on. We both went to Uganda to travel the same journey my mother and I would have taken.

CM: What hopes do you have for the show in the future?
NM: I would like ‘The Dark’ to have a successful national tour. I think it would also do well internationally. And also with workshops and seminars.

CM: Do you have any other projects in motion, or any grand ambitions for the future?
NM: I have just finished the ‘The Mixtape Tour’ with writer colleague Roger Robinson. ‘The Mixtape Tour’ is a cocktail of poems about music, poems about love, poems of protest and of exile, monologues and duet poems.

CM: What’s coming up next for you directly after this?
NM: I am starting to work on my second poetry collection and looking for a plays to adapt. Working with Roy and Fuel Theatre has really given me a taste for playwriting. I have also just been awarded a Wordsworth Trust Poetry Fellowship. Apart from that I am looking forward to Christmas and putting my feet up. I have been travelling a lot so I am looking forward to spending time with my family.

‘The Dark’ is on at Ovalhouse from 21 Nov-1 Dec, see this page here for details.

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