I went to see ‘Kesho Amahoro: Peace Tomorrow’ with absolutely no idea what to expect or even really what it was about. Little did I know that by the end of this moving and slick musical about child refugees struggling through the Rwandan war (an African Oliver Twist meets Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) that I’d be crying, laughing and contemplating my own existence in equal measure.
With kids like these as the next generation, ‘Peace Tomorrow’ looks pretty achievable!
‘Chicken Knitters’ performance of ‘Kesho Amahoro: Peace Tomorrow’ explores issues of child poverty, gang violence and the strength within us all to do whatever it takes to protect our family; yet their exploration felt neither heavy nor hard-going. There was a rawness in their portrayal, a natural almost innocent feel which meant the audience didn’t feel guilty about crying over the suffering of young children one minute and clapping along to the song and dance numbers the next.
The ominous entrance from amongst the audience and the dark auditorium filled with scruffy, limping orphans gave the piece a sense of foreboding from the start yet the opening number contrasted totally with this; the vibrancy and energy created a balance between light and dark. The appearance of chaos and speed was upheld during the first song, a near impossible task given the 40 children on stage all simultaneously running around singing. The slickness required to prevent this descending almost immediately into anarchy is a credit both to cast and directors. During scenes such as the food distribution in which the children are given their rations, all the cast members entered wearing plain white masks and did a synchronised routine entirely in the dark with only the eerie white faces showing. This gave the piece a fresh, modern twist preventing it from becoming a repetitive succession of songs.
But ultimately it was the talent of the cast members that really made the show such a success, with killer solos and fantastic group numbers it was clear they worked well as an ensemble and allowed each other to shine individually. Given the huge numbers of cast on stage and variations in age it was impressive that there wasn’t a point when any one actor or actress wasn’t truly acting; at no point did anyone wave at an audience member, giggle to themselves or start staring off into the distance. This focus made it feel like a professional production and all the cast should be very proud of themselves. The female lead had a beautiful voice as did the male protagonist and whenever they sung, I’m unashamed to admit the hairs on my arms stood to attention.
The message of strength, perseverance and love for your family was one which rung true throughout, especially since there was such a feeling of support coming from the audience with people on all sides discussing their pride in the children on stage, the energy was truly electric. The incredible, tear-jerking, goose-bump-inducing, hilarious performances; the sheer energy and joy these children showed on stage and the talent each and every one of them demonstrated made it a real pleasure to watch. With kids like these as the next generation, ‘Peace Tomorrow’ looks pretty achievable!