Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
August, 2006

It's not often that you encounter a play adapted from an article in the London Review of Books, but Simon Levy and director Hannah Eidinow have turned Eliot Weinberger's essay into a compelling piece of theatre. It is closely related to, but not entirely within, the growing verbatim genre: the five performers recite a series of more or less direct quotations, each prefaced along the lines of "On such-and-such a date I heard Donald Rumsfeld say...". The effect is to build not just an indictment of the contradictions, evasions and propaganda fed to us on the subject of Iraq, but also a testimony to the ordinary civilian who has been crammed with it all and still remembers remark A even when diametrically opposed remark B is trotted out. It implicitly characterises all this verbiage as an insult to both our intelligence and our status as the citizens from whom this abused political power derives.

The piece is not flawless. It contains a few factual errors, it is not above using the "I heard..." chorus in an agitprop crescendo, and occasionally the preface is missing altogether, from segments such as logs of prisoner abuse or attacks on military, data which may be in the public domain but do not make it into the mainstream of "I heard" reportage. Nevertheless, it effectively and unostentatiously overcomes any sense of "Iraq fatigue" with which one may have entered the theatre.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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