Sheffield premiere for John Rwoth-Omack’s play Far Gone, about African boy soldier

A terrifying incident in a Sheffield man’s childhood growing up in Uganda has inspired his one-man show about boy soldiers that premieres in Sheffield next week.

Monday, 20th May 2019, 12:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, 15:57 pm
John Rwoth-Omack in rehearsals for his one-man show, Far Gone, premiering at Theatre Deli, Sheffield

John Rwoth-Omack, who wrote and stars in Far Gone, explained how the show came about.

“Let’s rewind back to Uganda when I’m eight years old in a village. We hear shots in the distance.

“People start shouting, ‘The Lord's Resistance Army are coming’.

“Ten minutes later, they just stopped and called it a night.”

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John had an incredibly lucky escape – if the rebels had come into his village on that day as everyone feared, he would almost certainly have been forced to fight with them.

The family came to Sheffield and John went to Parkwood School and All Saints sixth form.

He said he considers himself as “Ugandan Sheffield”.

A few years later, when he was at drama school in London, John heard mention of the leader of the LRA, Joseph Kony, and a documentary Kony 2012, which was calling for his arrest.

“I was thinking what’s going on? Why is an American company all of a sudden interested in the LRA, who are the same group who would have attacked us?

“I’m thinking they’ve been rebels for for over 20 years. Why is the US all of a sudden interested?

“In 2009, oil was discovered in Uganda. In 2010 the US sends in 100 troops to go in and capture Kony.

“In 2012, when this campaign, comes out, American machines are drilling oil out of a lake in Uganda.”

John added: “I needed to do something about it. I thought I need to speak about this somehow.

“ That is when the idea came to me about writing this story about two brothers.”

In the story, two young brothers get captured by soldiers and one gets injured trying to save the other.

The younger boy faces a stark choice: kill your brother if you want to survive and become a boy soldier. And that’s where John’s story starts.

As well as telling a horrifying tale of children becoming killing machines, the play explores how western influences and intervention can help to spur conflicts on.

John said: “If this was just a story about a little boy becoming a child soldier, that play’s already been done.

“ The important thing is how the West is also complicit. We’ve never seen that part.”

John, who is guest curator at Theatre Deli, is working with director Moji Kareem, who runs Sheffield-based Utopia Theatre, a drama company that tells stories from Africa.

They decided to use a combination of movement, narration and story-telling.

Moji, who is of Nigerian descent uses African story-telling traditions in her work, which she showcased at Sheffield Theatres last year. Utopia is a company in residence there.

John visited his home area in Uganda two years ago and said the experience was “absolutely amazing”.

He is working on taking the show on tour to Africa one day, saying: “It’s a voice that needs to be heard everywhere.”

Far Gone premieres at Theatre Deli on Eyre Street, Sheffield from May 29 to June 1. Box office: www.theatredeli.co.uk