writers Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen specialise in verbatim theatre,
interviewing people connected to a real-world story and shaping their
testimony into a script performed by actors.
piece, The Exonerated, gave voice to convicts wrongfully convicted and
sentenced to death, and this new work is based on interviews with
displaced Iraqis in a Jordanian refugee camp.
their stories are all unhappy ones - you don't meet too many jolly
people in a refugee camp - though it may be mildly surprising that they
are not unrelentingly anti-American.
held in Abu Ghraib prison for over a year on trumped-up charges are the
couple who just got caught in the middle of Sunni-Shia fighting among
their neighbours; next to the woman whose family were killed by an
American bomb sit the theatre director and the artist who ran afoul of
unrelentingly tragic - aside from having to leave Iraq, the artist and
director seem happy enough, and Blank and Jensen include a playboy
dermatologist whose biggest complaint is that the bombing of Baghdad
forced him to do some real doctoring for a few days.
Western invaders are ultimately held to blame for everything, if only
for turning loose the home-grown horrors, and in one of the most
forceful passages of the script the imam warns that, in a culture built
on long memories, it will be generations before the West is forgiven.
purpose of a
theatrical event like this is to put human faces on the victims and
break through our built-up immunity to TV reports and newspaper
statistics. But the stories presented are so generic and predictable
that I suspect many will find their immunity intact, and your response
to this production is likely to depend on your politics.
sympathetic to the compilers' position will have their emotions
reinforced, but I doubt if many others will be significantly
enlightened or converted.
staging are minimal, with the cast lined up in chairs and taking turns
stepping forward to tell another piece of their individual stories, and
the characters are generally too static and single-dimensional for the
actors to do much with them.
gives the imam considerable energy and moral force, mainly by speaking
louder than anyone else, and Fajer Al-Kaisi takes a translator on a
journey from glib joking to being sobered by the tales he has to relay.
show is being
performed in a cavern directly below the tracks of Waterloo Station,
evidently the most inconvenient, theatrically inadequate and unpleasant
location the Old Vic could find for its satellite venue.
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- Aftermath - Old Vic Tunnels 2010