Friday, July 16, 2010

Aftermath

LIFT continues to be very exciting. Yesterday, I was at the discussion of Theatre from the Arab World in the afternoon, and then in the evening went to see Aftermath in the Old Vic tunnels. This is an American piece, by the same team that created The Exonerated, and again makes use of verbatim testimony. The witnesses whose words are used are all refugees from Iraq, now living in Jordan, and each with a horror story to tell. It's done incredibly well, with lots of humour, warmth, and humanity. The acting is very compelling, without being totally naturalistic - you are always aware that this is an actor relaying somebody else's words, particularly since much play is made of the translator, who was presumably present at all the interviews. The actors speak in English almost all the time - but he is always there and is frequently told to translate.

I often don't like verbatim theatre, because it's often undramatic and preachy. This was neither. My other concern about verbatim remains, however. In bringing us close to the psychology, the humanity of these victims, it loses sight of the wider political structures which caused this suffering in the first place. Even a play like Talking to Terrorists, which engaged with the "bad" side, rather than the "victims", reduced terrorism to a psychological aberration.