Young Vic, London SE1
Opened 22 May, 2002

**** Sprawling yet powerful play, quite unrelated to Sept 11

Tony Kushner's play, or pair of plays, is not about terrorism but truth and the need to believe. It's demanding, but well worth it.

At over three and a half hours including two intervals, this is not a relaxing evening. The first interval does not even come for some minutes after the end of the opening hour-long monologue, a tour de force of dense language and ideas delivered magnificently by Kika Markham as an amiable but obsessed middle-aged, middle-class housewife. Then, suddenly, we are in Afghanistan itself, the land that so fascinated the "Homebody"; she has, it turns out, travelled here (it is 1999) and been killed by an angry mob for not wearing the burqa. Or has she?

The rest of the play concerns the Homebody's husband and daughter (Jacqueline Defferary is particularly fine as the latter), as they encounter Taliban lawmen, a British government junkie, a maddened Afghan feminist and a guide who may be trying to smuggle dissident literature out of the country disguised as Esperanto poetry. No truth is ever really confirmed; we have to come to our own conclusions as everything is interrogated. Kushner doesn't try to shoehorn the material into a conventional length, but lets it take up as much space as it needs, and also pays us the compliment of trusting us to be attentive.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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