"Ery Nzaramba as Mamo, the Garbage King, is thoroughly engaging and a joy to watch"
"Ery Nzaramba is a sheer joy to watch as Mamo, eventually dubbed the eponymous Garbage King."
South London Press, 16 October 2010
Review by Kate Gould
This brilliant adaptation by Oladipo Agboluaje of Elizabeth Laird's superb novel is a triumph of superb acting (by the regular (Unicorn ensemble), evocative music and magnificent design.
Set in Addis Ababa, the story centres on the relationship between Mamo, a boy from the streets who has managed to escape the clutches of a child trafficker, and Dani, a privileged boy who has run away from his aggressive and abusive father.
The pair meet while both hiding out in a graveyard at night and strike up an unlikely friendship. In their struggle for survival on the tough streets of Ethiopia's capital, they find themselves drawn into a street gang, on whom they become dependent.
Using live music beautifully played by Ethiopian musician Temesgen Taraken, and a set made entirely from recycled rubbish, junk, bric-a-brac and litter - into which the actors crawl, loot, scavenge and build from - the performers skilfully and powerfully bring to life the sights and sounds of this vibrant African city.
Amaka Okafor as Dani finds just the right balance between naivety, teenage petulance and fear, while Ery Nzaramba as Mamo, the Garbage King, is thoroughly engaging and a joy to watch. John Cockerill also gives a brilliant performance as gang leader Million.
The Stage, Thursday 30 September
Review by Susan Elkin
This story of street children in Ethiopia is one of those quasi-epic exotic pieces which Unicorn does so well on its spacious semi-arena stage, with director Rosamunde Hutt creating a harsh but beautiful, very un-European environment just as she did in Journey to the River Sea.
You can see and hear the cheerful poverty of the rubbish dump and almost smell it, thanks to Jean Chan’s (shades of Cats) magnificent mosaic of debris which forms most of the set and from which puppets and props seamlessly emerge.
And the whole piece is immaculately glued together by the music played almost continually by Temesgen Taraken, an Ethiopian musician who plucks, bows, blows and strikes a fascinating range of evocative African instruments as well as leading the sung routines and much of the dance.
Unicorn’s resident ensemble of six is now so used to working together that there’s a new super-slickness in this piece which works in their favour as they deal, almost unnoticed, with dozens of role and costume changes.
Amaka Okafor is powerful as the rich boy who has run away from a tyrannical father (Richard Pepple - a very versatile actor and not part of the regular ensemble) and Ery Nzaramba is a sheer joy to watch as Mamo, eventually dubbed the eponymous Garbage King. Julie Hewlett gives a moving account of a boy who dies of TB on the rubbish dump, among other roles.
As usual, Samantha Adams’ work in all her roles is admirable, especially her evocative singing. Liam Lane is moving as the boy who breaks gang rules by stealing and has to be punished and the ever-reliable John Cockerill gives a pleasing account as gang leader Million, although his distinctly British voice work was a bit odd - unless one is meant to reflect on his character’s provenance?