by Paul Hodson inspired by the book by Jo Wilding.

Wales Millennium Centre Weston Studio) 16 November.
TICKETS: 029 2063 6464.

then Old Town Hall Hemel Hempstead 17 November 2010.
TICKETS: 01442 228091.

Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Mark Courtice 11 November at Nuffield Theatre Southampton.

Brilliant idea runs into the desert sands.
It was a brilliant idea to turn Jo Wilding’s book, culled from her blogs, into a play. She visited Iraq three times, getting a first hand picture of the horrors of the war, being latterly actively involved in humanitarian support for the Iraqis. Intriguingly she founded, ran and performed in a children’s circus company touring Iraq and the Middle East.

The circus could be both story and the means of telling it in one. Instead Paul Hodson’s adaptation goes for a conventional drama-doc approach. In a two-hour play we see little of the circus show (and what we do see is scrappy and self-indulgent) and a lot of Wilding telling her story in a spotlight. The choice to go for doc rather than drama means relationships are sketchy and motives obscure, while relying on conventional anti-war rhetoric dodges a more complicated and interesting political view.

A low-tech, grungy aesthetic is effectively and consistently applied throughout. Miriam Nabarro’s set of a dirty red tent-like back wall feels authentically tatty, sympathetic lighting from Dave Blake is gloomy and flickering, reflecting Bagdad’s wayward electricity supply. It’s when it explores the detail of the life of the Westerners in the city, avoiding kidnap and car bombs, that the play is at its most interesting.

A danger with blogging is that it is only one voice. Here, problematically, Iraqi voices are only heard as victims and then only through Wilding. What did they think of the show? Did they want to have a go? Could they?

It’s the psychology that is least well supported here, as the emotional hinterland is thinly drawn. There are hints of something deeper in the relationship between Wilding and a French street artist, and that with her TV reporter sister is clearly complex, but here, frustratingly, only glimpses of this come through despite these being the two most effective performances in the future is unwritten’s show.

The other performers struggle to find traction in the sands; with this script we are given a picture of a gang of unengaging egotists without the exploration of what might make them so.

Cast: Elizabeth Chan, Neal Craig, Fionnuala Dorrity. Katherine Manners, Jason Pitt.
Musician: Charlotte Glasson.

Director: Paul Hodson.
Designer: Miriam Nabarro.
Lighting: Dave Blake.
Sound/Music Stephen Wrigley.

2010-11-13 12:18:56

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