by Anders Lustgarten.
Arcola Theatre (Studio 1) 24 Ashwin Street E8 3DL To 2 April 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 March.
Revealing play about inhumanity striking-down humans.
Though not the most structurally sophisticated of modern political theatre writers, Anders Lustgarten has a reliable, robust approach to issues, bringing alive several facets of a situation, with good knowledge of a subject researched beyond the simplistic level of most supposedly political plays.
And he has a controlled passion – his plays provide insights into important matters in the world today and present more than one viewpoint. It’s possible to understand without agreeing and to see faults where we sympathise.
His title is well-chosen. The fragmentary scenes, and their divided presentation – characters of all nationalities speaking English, with Turkish translation on one screen, while another, larger screen carries images – split-screen views seen by a drone-guiding military officer, newscasts from award-winning journalists using reporting as the pretext for government propaganda.
All six actors enact the 34 scenes. The number isn’t arbitrary, but reflects the 34 Kurds killed in 2011’s Roboski attack. Events switch storylines which converge upon a drone attack on unarmed people, and also show the consequences. Induction into military discipline leaves no room for thought or conscience – indeed, drives such things out. Reluctantly or regardless, the military will extract information. Even sympathy for the prisoner doesn’t stop non-standard operating procedures (which seem fast to be becoming standard unofficial procedures).
The fragmentary structure, its movement between different perspectives on the drone attack, a filling-in of the humanity in its victims and insistence upon the glibness and inhumanity of the institutions carrying-out, and mediating to the public, the violence, establish the play’s point-of-view as it builds its picture of death, grief and indifference.
If local people’s lives are caught-up in the military operations, so are those of the lower-level military operators. Lustgarten’s principal target are the drones. As in George Brant’s Grounded, which has been touring Britain for nearly two years, the ability to wield death remotely, putting-in the boot is something that can be done in air-conditioned comfort while drinking coffee, the only evidence a silent explosion on a screen – destruction in terms of a computer-game. It makes death frightfully convenient to deliver in the name of democracy or anti-terrorism.
Ferhat: Tuncay Akpinar.
Savaş: Josef Altin.
Semira: Karina Fernandez.
Bully Soldier: David Kirkbride.
Hüsnü: Aslam Percival Husain.
Raw Soldier: Ryan Wichert.
Director: Mehmet Ergen.
Designer: Anthony Lamble.
Lighting/Video: Richard Williamson.
Sound/Music: Neil McKeown.
Make-up: Bianca Carver.
Dramaturg: Seçil Honeywill.
Assistant director: Theo Scholefield.
Associate lighting/video: Daniel English.