Stef (Fiona Button), the central character in Adam Brace's new play They Drink It In The Congo, has given up a well paid PR job and is staking her reputation organising a festival of Congolese culture to raise awareness of the atrocities going on in the mineral rich country. Stef has been to the Congo and seen the horrors with her own eyes and wants to do something about it. It is a laudable aim fuelled with an element of white colonial guilt - her family did well out of farming in Kenya - and personal guilt at not being able to look at the injured people she saw.
"Don't look at the wound."
She manipulates her ex and PR friend Tony (Richard Goulding) into helping and wants a third of the organising committee for 'Congo Voice' to be from within the Congolese diaspora. However, things aren't going smoothly, with in-fighting on the steering committee and death threats from Les Combattantes des Londres.
Brace mixes dark humour (and sometime silly humour) with some of the grim realities of conflict in the Congo. We get a five minute history lesson of the country in a pre press conference briefing and then later we get a glimpse of some of what Stef saw during her visit. There are also the more subtle points: Stef who lives in her late father's flat talks about not being able to bury him in Kenya as he wished because the new owners of the farm won't permit it while the Congolese community have been forced to flee their homes.
The human cost is also emphasised in Oudry (Sule Rimi) - a pink suit wearing personification of technology - and later on a tube train when the commuters catch up on celebrity gossip and trivia on devices that no doubt contain minerals mined in the Congo.
But for all that is raised - from white colonial guilt, the politics of the charity sector, ethical consumerism and of course the extremely complex problems of the Congo - it is seeing it through Stef's lense that dominates and that was a problem for me. We learn a lot about her and her motivations - pride, grief, stubbornness and perhaps a little PTS. Yes she represents a stereotype but the more things fall apart the more personal she makes it. At one point she says to her Congolese friend Anne-Marie (Anna-Maria Nabirye) "After everything I have done for you" and she turns up at a wake to try and get support from within the community.