Wednesday, June 01, 2005

George Seremba caught in the rain

“The year was 1980, December,” says George Seremba, remembering back to the time he was forced, near death, to flee his home in Uganda.

As an opponent of Milton Obote, twice president of Uganda, Seremba had begun noticing that his country’s secret police were taking a keen interest in his activities.

“I didn’t realise was how far up the list of enemies I was,” says Seremba until, one day, he was abducted from the university campus, tortured, sentenced to death and driven at night to a forest on the edge of the Kampala, a spot notorious as the location for summary executions.

“I was taken and shot and after the firth bullet one of the soldiers shot a rocket propelled grenade which exploded into my thigh. I rolled into a marsh. Bullets whizzed by me. But it was dark. And the bullets whizzed by and missed me.

“In the end, the gunmen left to pick up two of my friends. I crawled away and lost consciousness. When I regained consciousness I could not walk, so I began crawling slowly to the road...”

Eventually, and after a few more close calls, Seremba escaped and finally made a new life for himself in Canada, where he is now based working as a writer and actor. He has, all the same, had a long-standing relationship with Ireland.

“In my undergraduate days in Uganda, I was exposed to plays by Synge and Lady Gregory, O’Casey…I was hooked on these plays. I was very curious about doing a comparative study of Irish and African theatre,” he says.

He first came to Ireland to the 1994 Galway Arts Festival to perform his own play, Come Good Rain, and returned to tour Ireland with that play, eventually fulfilling an ambition study at TCD, like his hero, Ugandan playwright, Robert Serumaga (on whom Seremba is now researching a PhD).

For the moment, however, he is being distracted from academic work by a revival of Calypso Theatre Company’s hit Dublin Fringe Festival production of Fugard’s Master Harold and the Boys.

“I’d probably enjoy this play as much just watching. To begin with it is one of the best plays ever written. So as an actor it is a tremendous joy and responsibility. It is the kind of thing that as actor you don’t want to sit down, you want to read it on your feet.”

One of Fugard’s most personal plays, Master Harold and the Boys tells the story of a white youth who is offered the choice between doing what he knows is right and rejecting bigotry, or taking the easy and comfortable route.

“Of course it’s about South Africa and Apartheid,” says Seremba. “But it is also about much more. Because bigotry and prejudice are not confined to one place or one time. In Ireland now we are all wrestling with this. In the Ireland of today people are there to remind themselves that we are all in this together and there is a big journey for Ireland to make now”…

Come Good Rain, Sam Beckett Theatre, TCD, Dublin, June 2005.


Blogger luke clancy said...

The production is showing at SBT as of writing, but has been seen widely elsewhere too. This piece was written in the context of an earlier series of performances.

4:08 PM  

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