We take a look at what is being said about the UK premiere of Lynn Nottage’s play.

(c) Marc Brenner

Broadway World: **** “Anger-inducing and a cry to action, Mlima’s Tale is a devastating yet moving exploration into the ivory trade. A powerful drama beautifully played by a talented group of actors who bring Nottage’s script to life with such passion and tenacity, this is an urgent watch not to be missed.”

British Theatre.com: **** “Directed by Miranda Cromwell, Mlima’s Tale is polemical and enlightening, turning facts and figures into a compelling and moving condemnation of the ivory trade. It is given added power by Femi Temowo’s music and Amy Mae’s abstract lighting design of shifting colours, resulting in a haunting, thought-provoking drama that will leave nobody in any doubt about the cruel and senseless brutality of ivory trading and collection.”

The Arts Desk: ***** “The austere beauty of this production can’t be overstated. There are minimal props – a strip light for an office scene, boxes with lumps on for the ivory shop’s wares – but mostly it is a thing of shadows and silhouettes on two sets of gauze curtains, which are pulled across to change scenes by the four actors populating all the parts. Lighting changes shift the tone – blood red at the back of the stage when Mlima is dismembered, for example – and a small raised revolve on one side of the stage is regularly used to set him apart from the other actors.”

Time Out: *** “It’s a play that points out humanity’s selfishness and corruption. But, never does the script veer into thunderous rage. From the grave Milma sees the damning impact of greed and capitalism but Nottage’s strength as a writer is that his silent presence is enough to make you enraged. No words are wasted here – she doesn’t need them to be.”

The Guardian: *** “Nottage never lays the blame on a single character or presents anyone without good reason for their actions, but perhaps it is this buyer, the one creating the demand, who holds the most responsibility. If so, we are all guilty. For who among us hasn’t bought something beautiful and chosen not to look too deeply at how it got there?”

All That Dazzles: **** “Miranda Cromwell handles the material with a sure hand, if with some slightly repetitive choices in her transitions from one scene to another. Using a raised revolve in Hankin’s staging, she has Mlima and others on a literal and metaphorical treadmill, forever moving forward without truly making progress. Actors and additional set pieces enter the stage as the pair of curtains are pulled across the stage, an effective method that gradually loses its element of surprise in the latter half of the show.”

Evening Standard: **** “Nonetheless, this is a deeply moving production that imaginatively explores the commodification of nature, lending a meaningful voice to one of the many victims of the ivory trade.”

The Telegraph: **** “Here is an elegant reminder, if one were needed, of the eternal allure of storytelling theatre at its most simple. “

London Theatre.co.uk: **** “At home with both the spiritual and the poetic and yet attuned to the cutthroat politics of the ivory trade, the play must be a tonic to perform, not least with the likes of recent Olivier nominee Gabrielle Brooks (Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical) and the invaluable Pui Fan Lee on hand. And for all the bloodletting at its core, the writing has its own incantatory beauty, so much so that Mlima’s final command to “run!” finds the audience more than ever rooted to its seats.”

Theatre Weekly: “Under Miranda Cromwell’s fluid direction, there is a perfect symbiosis of stunning vocal harmonies composed by Femi Temowo, evocative sound design by Emma Laxton, and movement by Shelley Maxwell.”

The Reviews Hub: *** “Before the halfway stage, the play takes on the feel of a documentary, loaded by Nottage with sickening facts about the ivory trade, and its dramatic impetus is lost. Flashes of humour are injected as if in recognition of this problem and the imagination of Cromwell’s staging continues to impress, but these things alone are barely enough to rescue a production that starts on a high and then slowly loses its way.”

British Theatre Guide: “The play’s sequence of events and the twenty thinly but sufficiently sketched characters ably performed by five actors directed by Miranda Cromwell are a convincing and believable account of a trade that continues to devastate the remaining elephant population of the world.”

Mlima’s Tale continues to play at the Kiln Theatre until the 21st October.


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