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What I Heard About Iraq

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
3 stars
When Simon Levy’s dramatisation of Eliot Weinberger’s brilliant 2005 London Review Of Books article opened in Edinburgh last year, the mess of the ongoing Iraq war was already plain to see. By chopping up the double-thinking litany of hear-say, half-truths and Chinese whispers spewed from the mouths of presidents, prime ministers and other liars, it was a dramatic gift to the play’s makers. If it is to become more than just archival, though, journalistic theatre such as this needs constant on the hoof rewrites. Lucky for director Hannah Eidinow, then, that the prevailing catalogue of gaffes and goofs provides such rich pickings.

Carved up between five performers who adopt sartorial representations of both the establishment and those attempting to cut through the spin, the play’s delivery is simple, matter-of-fact and requires little staging beyond a backdrop of slides. As illuminating as this barrage of information is, taking the moral high ground in such a fashion is an easy trick requiring little in the way of artistry beyond Weinberger’s original prose. There’s nothing, after all, funny about a Tony Blair impression anymore. So, when the actors adopt that familiar pose of palms-together piety, there is tellingly, and quite rightly, not a laugh in the house.

While there’s no mention yet either of Private Windsor’s withdrawal from the front-line, nor Gordon Brown’s vote-craving promise to remove all troops from Iraq, material from as recent as only a few weeks ago has been incorporated. This acknowledgement that there is still no conclusion to a still rolling drama is what makes Weinberger’s text such a vital document. Transposed to spoken-word, its naming of the guilty is an intermittently powerful experience.

The Herald, May 21st 2007

ends

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