Tobi Bamtefa gives a swaggering, thundering performance as the dictator Idi Amin, but this adaptation of Giles Foden’s novel is stodgy and plodding
Swaggering and lumbering, fickle and childish, Tobi Bamtefa thunders between laughter and malice as the former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in this adaptation of Giles Foden’s novel, directed by Gbolahan Obisesan. The president’s greed and gruesome misogyny glisten like beads of sweat under the weight of his charm and bravado. But even this confident lead performance can’t rescue a stodgy, overwritten script and humdrum production in which tensions fizzle, plot holes reign and actions lack consequence.
Daniel Portman plays Nicholas Garrigan, a fresh-faced Scottish doctor thrown into the position of Amin’s personal physician. A chirpy, stuttering romantic, he chooses to see the new president as a beacon of hope for the country. But Garrigan’s intentions are never clear. With Amin’s charm so immediately overshadowed by his brutality in Steve Waters’ altered timeline, we don’t understand why the wilfully ignorant and quickly complicit doctor is so enamoured with the president; he has to turn a blind eye so fast he’s left spinning on the spot for the rest of the show. With his ethics bludgeoned too soon, his cowardice is amplified and our sympathy for him is significantly reduced.