Educating Ronnie - Edinburgh 2012
Aug 16, 2012
Ten years ago Joe Douglas travelled to Uganda where he met Ronnie. Once home, their friendship developed by email and text message. Ronnie asked Joe to pay £20 a month for his education. Douglas, only a student himself, agreed. Over the years that followed he would give Ronnie substantially more. “What are we thinking?” Joe repeatedly asks us several times as his story unfolds, as if to say “what would you have done?”
What may sound like a story about trust or naivety becomes a story about a young man’s relationship with himself. “Losing him would be like losing the person that I want to be” he tells us.
Douglas warns us at the beginning, unnecessarily, that he’s not an actor. He doesn’t need to be. The story is at its best when he just talks, and the words of Ronnie appear in a gradual collage on the back wall with a verbatim voiceover.
When it tries to affect us it over-reaches: the pauses on the serious moments; the sometimes intrusive underscoring; briefly playing Ronnie himself. All these devices cheapen a story that doesn’t need dramatising, it just needs telling. What the show proves, though, is that a fascinating story simply told can hold the attention and Douglas achieves this with great skill.
For me, it’s a story about how being a good person doesn’t mean solving anyone else’s problems, it means trying to. “Perhaps part of growing up is hardening your heart a little” he says. I hope not.