Kathryn Barker Productions / London Classic Theatre
Cramphorn Theatre Chelmsford
Henry Naylor's three-hander looks back to Iraq in 2003. Much has been written since about the abuse of prisoners, the plight of the Iraqi interpreters.
Here, three monologues are interwoven, the actors move around the three simple stools, naked light-bulbs above them recalling the interrogation rooms where much of the imagined action takes place.
The verse prologue takes us to the land of Sinbad and Saddam, an Arabian nightmare; the epilogue deplores man's greatest enemy, his own brutality.
The three actors give intense, horrifyingly believable performances.
Anna Riding is Zoya, a young Iraqi woman whose fiancé, Nasir, whom we never see, is pivotal to the story. They meet through music, “proper music”, Eminem, Ludacris, Dr Dre. He's something of a subversive, but leaps at the chance of translating for the Americans in their prison.
It's run by Kasprowicz, played by William Reay, a veteran of the first incarnation of the piece on the Edinburgh fringe. Foster,”a woman in the war zone”, is an interrogator who believes that a psychological approach - “pride and ego down” - will get the best “intel”. She's played, with a searing honesty, by Olivia Beardsley, making her UK début in this production.
These three actors, story-tellers really, bring the other characters to life too: Valle the sadistic loudmouth grunt, Faisal the war-lord and many more. And their words paint a terrible picture of darkness overcoming enlightenment, of treachery and humiliation. Kasprowicz, brought down by the sexual chemistry between him and Foster, must watch powerlessly as Saddam's notorious gaol sinks back into inhumanity at the hands of the occupying US Army. And his own liberal patriotism is shaken by the traitor he once trusted.
A powerful piece, part history, part tragedy, given a strong production in this LCT tour, directed by Michael Cabot.