Eric Ngalle Charles brings Cameroon to Hay

The show opened with a dramatic monologue about music, youth and broken landscape. As soon as the actor slipped into a comfortable rhythm, his storytelling stopped and the singing commenced. He sounded as if he might cry. This was the pattern throughout the play; stop and start, much like Eric Ngalle Charles’ life itself.

His play, Last Ritual, is his own story. It tells the tale of a boy in Cameroon who loses his family and is subjected to the rituals of his community. He is cut, he bleeds, he suffers. The language, as a result, is a series of interrupted statements. “I saw ants and maggots making merry with my blood,” he said of the time he was cut by a witchcraft-type practitioner. It’s jarring and visceral, chopping and changing with anecdotes and dialogues.

When he took to the stage, he brought the idiolect, the sounds and the phrases of a Cameroonian community to life. The audience could have been sat around a campfire listening to a storyteller through the spitting embers. Imitating the people of his past, he verbalised his memoirs through smells, colours and tastes before evoking the folk-law of his homeland.

After his play, he discussed his work and his life in Wales with the poet, Owen Sheers. He dipped into his past, skimming over how he was the victim of human trafficking. He bypassed politics but said that his welcome in Cardiff as a refugee made all the difference. “The first country that allowed me to be a citizen was a country I didn’t know existed: Wales,” he said.

If you missed this event, you might also like event number 206, Poetry Reading: Anecdotal Evidence, at 7pm on Tuesday, May 29th.