Memory is a remarkably fallible thing. We change our stories constantly. Maybe in retelling a story we embellish a detail to make it more exciting. Maybe the details of one day start creeping into the events of another. Maybe we prefer to remember our actions in a way that paints us in a better light. Or maybe we hear someone else's story so many times that it begins to become our own. We have all done this and, no matter how hard we try, our memories will continue to shift and change throughout our lives.
In Lizzie Nunnery's The Swallowing Dark, Martha and Canaan come face to face with this troubling reality; no one's memory of their life is actually complete. And yet our systems of government and justice ask for precision. We do not allow for discrepancies. Not long ago I sat on a jury for a criminal trial and I remember feeling a mix of sympathy and frustration at the witnesses who couldn't quite get their stories accurate enough. The things they said were not untrue ... they were just not enough of the truth. On the surface, Lizzie Nunnery has written a play about our political climate and the modern complexities of citizenship and immigration. But more than that, it is a play that reminds us that a human life is never simple and the stories we hear and the stories we tell reflect that. It is a play about our need to know something with absolute certainty and the realization that that is impossible with even the most important moments of our lives. It is a play about learning to trust the truth while still knowing that sometimes we can never know all the facts.
Reliance House: UK Border Agency Office in Liverpool until 2012
tax disc: a small round piece of paper displayed on motor vehicles proving the owner has paid road tax
Slater Street: a street in Liverpool's nightlife district
offie: a shop that sells alcoholic beverages, short for "off license"
dual carriageway: a divided highway
canes it: to go fast
MDC (Movement for Democratic Change): Political party founded in 1999 by trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai. The party has stood in national elections as an opposition party against Mugabe's ZANU government.
Harare: the capital of Zimbabwe and its largest city
ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union): Political party started by Robert Mugabe in the early 1970s. Comprised mainly of the majority ethnic group Shona, Mugabe and his party have stayed in power and maintained an autocratic monopoly on the government up to present times.
Matabeleland: A region in Southern Zimbabwe that is the indigenous home of the minority ethnic group Ndebele. It was the site of tens of thousands of civilian deaths when Mugabe sent government troops into the region in response to perceived threats to his power among the Ndebele. Residents of the region have described these events as a genocide and have been pursuing a trial of Mugabe at the International Criminal Court.
Fifth Brigade: The arm of the Zimbabwean army sent into Matabeleland in the early 1980s to control rising inter-ethnic tensions and responsible for the civilian deaths there as well as for the disruption of the food supply for the area.
Black Jesus: The self-appointed title of Ference Shiri, the commander of the Fifth Brigade and a cousin of Mugabe's. He came to be known as "Black Jesus" because of the control he had over whether someone lived or died.
chibuku: a commercial sourghum beer
CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation): The national intelligence agency of Zimbabwe
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