The Other Place, Stratford Upon Avon: Tkts 01789 403403
Runs: 2h 45m, in rep till 13th Oct 2001
Review: Rod Dungate, 18th September 2001

A detailed and totally absorbing look at international conflict resolution: debate flies round The Other Place on tongues of fire.

When we see warring factions on our TV screens don’t we often want to bang their leaders’ heads together to try to knock some sense into them? David Edgar, master among UK political playwrights, might be an exception to the rule: in THE PRISONER’S DILEMMA he takes a close, detailed and totally absorbing look at the issues that surround international conflict resolution.

From the moment the play opens until it reaches its quiet and poignant ending debate flies around The Other Place on tongues of fire. Edgar pulls off a bit of a hat-trick, too, political the play may be, but it is always humane and has delicious moments of touching humour.

Edgar sets his play in an imagined Eastern European State bound up in a conflict between the ruling group (Christian) and a would-be independent region (Muslim). The awful complexities in resolution are worked through. The solution may not be found because the language can’t be agreed upon, or it may be that one side has to give up too much history, it may be because a line on the map isn’t in the right place, or leaders can’t control their own factions – right and wrong is never black and white.

As the play moves forwards we share the frustrations of the participants and by the end (and here is this accomplished playwright’s greatest coup) we CARE about the solution.

This is tricky stuff to play but the large company revel in the debate and the power of the words. Specially worth watching is Penny Downie as the Finnish ‘peacemaker’ Gina Olsson – gently to the point this is a person you would genuinely trust, but with a passion that counts too.

Michael Attenborough (who directs) has steered exactly the right path through this tortuous political landscape and Es Devlin (designer) demonstrates an ability to constantly transform the acting space with a skill that’s breathtaking.

Al Bek, American: Douglas Rao
Floss Wetherby, British: Diana Kent
Patterson Davis, American: Joseph Mydell
James Neil, Irish: David Wilmot
Gina Olsson, Finnish: Penny Downie
Tom Rothman, American: Larry Lamb
Nicolai Shubkin: Kavkhazian: Trevor Cooper
Kelima Bejta, Drozhdani: Zoe Waites
Jan Olsson-Trask, Finnish George Clarke/ Joshua Dale
Erik Trask, Finnish: Alan David
Roman Litvinyenko, Kavkhazian: Robert Bowman
Hasim Majdani, Drozhdani: Robert Jezek
Trevelyan, British: Alex Zorbas
Emela, Drozhdani: Hattie Morahan
Zelim Zagayev, Drozhdani: Alex Zorbas
Yuri Vasilevich Petrovian, Kavkhazian: Alan David
Lou Wasserman, American: Trevor Cooper

Director: Michael Attenborough
Design: Es Devlin
Lighting: Howard Harrison
Music: Paddy Cuneen
Sound: John A Leonard

2001-09-23 12:46:43

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