Marking the 21st anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Ken Urban’s Sense of an Ending, playing at Theatre503, stirs our Western complacency, probing at hard truths, human assumptions and the perversion of the truth.

SOAE Dress, © Jack Sain 2015-0914

Urban’s political thriller shines a light on journalistic truth and morality amid the atrocity of the Rwandan genocide. Charles (Ben Onwukwe), a disgraced New York Times journalist, arrives in Rwanda for an exclusive interview with two Hutu nuns. Charged with war crimes during the 1994 genocide, the nuns, Sister Justina (Lynette Clarke) and Sister Alice (Akiya Henry), must convince the world of their innocence or face a lifetime in prison. When an unknown survivor contradicts their story, Charles must choose which version of the truth to believe.

SOAE Dress, © Jack Sain 2015-1033

Set in Kigali in Rwanda, Sense of an Ending takes place over Easter weekend. Designer Cecilia Carey’s coloured glass paned windows reference the ruined church where those who sought sanctuary were brutally killed. While the Sisters find solace in prayer song, their ambiguous recollection of the genocide which occurred causes the audience to question their previous assumptions. What do we assume of people at first glance? What are human beings capable of? How far can we trust what we are told?

SOAE Dress, © Jack Sain 2015-0998

As motivations, loyalties and doubts begin to reveal themselves, both Lynette Clarke and Akiya Henry maintain a resolute approach balancing one another’s characterisations with great tact. Directed by Jonathan O’Boyle, Sense of an Ending retains the ability to find great humour amidst atrocity. Paul (Abubakar Salim), a Tutsi corporal in the Rwandan Patriotic Front, is perhaps the show’s greatest asset, finding new life and inventiveness in his delivery of the text. The weightiness of the plot is revived by its honest and human considerations as hope and fear, absence and presence, blame and revenge, congeal in an uncertain truth. If you weren’t there then you don’t know.

SOAE Dress, © Jack Sain 2015-0771

The power to remain objective will waiver for some as the play reaches its climactic peak. This divided story, connected by questioning narratives, highlights the failures of justice. In this highly politically charged atmosphere, foreign correspondents, Hutus and Tutsis and religious officials all have their personal motivations for uncovering the truth. This divided story of judicial corruption is showing until 6 June.

Photography by Jack Sain