THE PRISONER’S DILEMMA
by David Edgar.
Cockpit Theatre Gateforth Street NW8 8EH In rep to30 November 2014.
7.30pm 26, 30 Nov
2.30pm 22, 29 Nov.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7258 2825.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 November.
Following the detailed arguments leads to enlightenment about politics, diplomacy and conflict.
It’s taken North Carolina’s Hot Coals Theatre to revive three plays English playwright David Edgar wrote between 1990 and 2001 for the smaller spaces at Britain’s two major theatre companies, as a trilogy under the umbrella title ‘The Iron Curtain Trilogy’, an idea with which Edgar is apparently pleased.
The Prisoner’s Dilemma is the latest of the three. It shows the playwright’s deep, detailed understanding of both surface and underlying currents of political tensions. What he writes about a post-Soviet republic might be moved today to the tribal tensions of the Middle East.
If there’s a problem with the Iron Curtain title, it’s that it suggests a Western-centred view, just as the threefold revivals are presented as marking the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall being disassembled by popular uprising. The play itself avoids taking sides with the values of any specific group. There’s something unsettling about the Western peacemakers – including, with Americans, the usual ‘good guy’ elements of a Quaker and a Finn. While Julie Oliver’s Quaker Floss, ever welcoming and open, becomes increasingly stressed on the frontline of humanitarian aid in conflict zones, Rebecca Bossen’s tall, slim Kelima moves smoothly, in elegant clothes, through the ordered life and affluence a career moving between academia, diplomacy and allied peace trades can give.
Director Jerome Davis marshals his large cast with pace and clarity, aided by swift-operating stage management, which matches the efficiency the Royal Shakespeare Company’s premier enjoyed in Stratford-upon-Avon’s close-up Other Place. If Hot Coals don’t match the depth of character (something actors often have to fill-in with Edgar) suggested by the original cast they score in commitment and the clarity they bring to all scenes, those of tireless – often fruitless – negotiations between two ethnic groupings in a country whose international investment depends upon peace but where ancient grudges and religious differences are ingrained – and the briefer moments of violence which remind where high-powered talks get earthed.
The prisoner’s dilemma is a matter of choice. It’s first discussed, then emerges in reality, and the play suggests the less public talk there is the more chance of humane behaviour.
Roman/2nd Kavkaz Soldier: Thaddeus Walker.
Nikolai/Lou Wasserman: Jeff Aguiar.
Al Bek: Jon Fitts.
Erik: Brook North.
Petrovian: Brian Linden.
Hasim/1st Kavkaz Soldier: Rajeev Rajendran.
1st Drozhdan Soldier/Trevelyan/Zelim: Greg Paul.
Young Man/Paramilitary/2nd Drozhdan Soldier: Joey Heyworth.
Floss Weatherby: Julie Oliver.
Kavkaz Soldier/Solder/Paramilitary/Father: Matthew Lubin.
Tom Rothman: Marc Carver.
James Neil/2nd Paramilitary: Max Hanau.
Patterson Davis/Len: Joelk Oramas.
Kelima: Rebecca Bossen.
Gina/Mother: Jeanine Frost.
Emekla/1st Orderly/Sailor: Mikaela Saccoccio.
Jan: David Skaggs.
Director: Jerome Davis.
Designer: Matthew Haber.
Lighting: Matthew Adelson.
Sound/Composer: John Heitzenrater.
Dialect coach: Kirby Wahl.
Dramaturg: Marshall Botvinik.
Assistant director: Stephen M Eckert.
Assistant designer: Fiona Kearns.