The Company of The Last King of Scotland. Photo by Helen Murray
An adaptation of Giles Foden’s famous novel is the focus for Sheffield Theatres’ latest production.
Popularly known at the ‘Butcher of Uganda’, Idi Amin Dada is considered one the cruellest despots in African history. Foden’s fiction, which has been adapted for the Sheffield stage by Steve Waters, explores his relationship with a young Scottish doctor, Nicholas Garrigan, who becomes his personal physician and confidant.
Garrigan, played admirably by Daniel Portman, whom you might recognise as Podrick Payne in Game of Thrones, is drawn to the larger-than-life President, to the point of no return. Dr Garrigan is swept up in the romance of Africa and his privileged position that he can’t see, or chooses not to see, what’s really going on until it’s too late.
While everyone else around him takes their leave, Garrigan remains with him until the end, fully aware that Amin's rule is soaked in blood, and that he is complicit in the atrocities. It’s at this point that Portman’s role becomes much more animated in he thrives in it.
Tobi Bamtefa is outstanding as Amin, delivering a good deal of humour, particularly in the first act. As anyone who knows the story, there’s an underlying brutality and ruthlessness to his regime, which comes to the fore in act two as Amin’s world starts to fall apart around him. Although, as good as Bamtefa is, you never quite get the feeling of unease or horror when he’s on stage in this latter part, even when they reveal heads in beds and torture chambers; he’s likeable to the last.
There’s fantastic performances from the likes of Akuc Bol, who plays Amin’s first wife Kay, Mark Oosterveen and Baker Mukasa too.
Everything said, it was very enjoyable and a standing ovation at the end is no bad thing. I maybe just expected it to be a little darker and a little more shocking at the end.