Where is the line drawn between humanitarianism and terrorism?

By Marvis Osweri

A Man Like You poses that oft unanswerable question, where is the line drawn between humanitarianism and terrorism?

Set in the aftermath of the WestGate Mall bombings in Nairobi, the play explores extremism through the viewpoints of Patrick North, a UK diplomat taken hostage and his kidnapper Abdi. Despite his life being a bargaining chip, Patrick doesn’t back down from his world views even when presented with Abdi’s persuasive arguments.

Patrick’s wife Elizabeth meanwhile is distraught and counts the days since his disappearance. She feels guilt at merely smiling again when his fate is still unresolved. Perhaps suffering from survivor’s guilt Elizabeth beats herself up wondering whether a being a diplomat’s wife was too high a price to pay for love.

When the negotiations appear to have concluded, Elizabeth is guarded in her reaction. She daresn’t let herself hope too much.

The actors play wonderfully off each other. At no point does Abdi sink into a caricature of what a terrorist is. There is almost a comradery between Abdi and Patrick, especially in the scenes where they play a board game. His humanity, his beliefs, as much as Patrick’s remain relatable despite the despicable circumstances.

And Elizabeth, breaking the 4th wall stage left, is even more so. I found my eyes welling up as she struggled to find the words to express her anguish.

The costuming throughout the play was impeccable. I especially appreciated the scene where both men were dressed in white as each defended their actions and beliefs. In that moment, both were innocent. Until proven guilty.

A Man Like You is an eye-opener. How far are you willing to go for what you believe? And like Abdi, how many of us mistake politics for holiness?

Photos by James Wasswa

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