DINNER WITH SADDAM
by Anthony Horowitz.
Menier Chocolate Factory 53 Southwark Street SE1 1RU To 14 November 2015.
Tue-Sat 8pm Mat Sat & Sun 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7378 1713.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 September.
Mix of domestic farce and charged political comedy.
Ahmed Alawai might be Iraq’s most self-satisfied citizen as he sits at home reading the paper. Why not? His wife does all the work and the worrying. And Ahmed’s having the domestic plumbing repaired by a plumber who turned-up on the doorstep looking for work. What could possibly go wrong on this peaceful day, 19 March 2003, in Baghdad?
Well, there’s no water for a start. And no well – or only the first nine inches of one, though more energetic neighbours have dug deeper, sensing an imminent American attack on Saddam Hussein’s capital city. Matters proceed domestically for a time, as in a farce with all the traditional trimmings. The plumber’s not who he seems, and becomes even less so when the feared security head arrives announcing Saddam’s about to pop-in for a meal.
Modern farcical accoutrements here include a corpse, various bodily excretions plus food and water that are not what they seem. And then, beating the interval by seconds, Steven Berkoff’s Saddam arrives. He dominates the second act. The farcical plot goes on around, almost in spite of, him.
But the dictator dictates pace and mood, sometimes swinging into a dreamy speculation which can leave it unclear whether the character’s searching for a thought or the actor for a line. At other times, voice and physique become thunderously certain; this is the ruler whose chief aides reportedly sweated with fear when they were near him.
Horowitz makes him a joker; a trait rarely associated with the tyrannical, but necessary if most other characters are to survive the act. Its action fizzles-out as the hungry dictator who arrives for a meal turns out to have brought his own supplies, and eats little of those.
There’s some serviceable humour elsewhere – Nathan Amzi’s unwanted suitor Jammal is suitably distressed by events (his unwilling bride-to-be Rana is never developed in the play) – but the earlier quarrels between Sanjeev Bhaskar’s Ahmed and Shobu Kapoor as his wife are cut-off.
And Berkoff remains centre stage until he leaves, letting Horowitz and Lindsay Posner’s production deliver a final shattering bombshell which raises new political questions.
Ahmed Alawai: Shobu Kapoor.
Sayid Al-Madini/Colonel Farouk: Ilan Goodman.
Rana Alawai: Rebecca Grant.
Jammal: Nathan Amzi.
Saddam Hussein: Steven Berkoff.
Soldiers: Bally Gill, Zed Josef.
Director: Lindsay Posner.
Designer/Costume: Tim Shortall.
Lighting: Howard Harrison.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Composer: Matthew Scott.
Dialect coach: Zabariad Salam.
Hair/Make-up: Richard Mawbey.
Fight director: Terry King.
Associate director: Richard Fitch.