culture wars logo

 

archive

 

 

 

about us

 

 

links

 

 

contact

 

 

current

 

 

archive

 

about us

 

links

 

contact

 

current

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guardians / Making The Difference
Both Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh Fringe Festival


Andrew Haydon
posted 22 August 2005

There are a number of plays on the Fringe this year dealing with various aspects of the 'War on Terror', from 9/11, through the invasion of Iraq, to the recent suicide bombings in London. The most fervent area for dramatic attention is provided by the massive shock to national self-image caused by the Abu Ghraib photographs - the moment when America and Britain were conclusively seen to have strayed away from their self-appointed role as the Good Guys upholding liberty, freedom and fair play. Of these many plays, two of the best are Guardians by Peter Morris and Making The Difference created by Small Change Theatre.

Peter Morris is no stranger to controversy: his last play on the Fringe, Age of Consent (2001), provoked a flurry of media attention over its depiction of one of Jamie Bulger's murderers as a reasonable human being. His new play, Guardians, looks at the press itself, and the way in which public understanding and opinion is manipulated into tidy moral fables.

 

The play consists of two intercut monologues from imagined analogues of Lynndie England and one of the Mirror journalists responsible for the faked British Iraq torture photographs. It is an astute and intriguing combination which creates fascinating new insights into war's dehumanisation of combatants and civilians alike. In an age where verbatim theatre, accuracy and authenticity are the most prized and fashionable modes for creating political theatre, to offer speculation, inquiry and uncertainty in their stead is both brave and commendable.

 

More importantly, these characters are fully formed dramatic subjects in their own right. There is a surprising level of unexpectedness, given that the audience comes to the piece already knowing the broad outline of the stories. Beyond the storytelling, though there is also a rich vein of moral inquiry. Those familiar with Morris's work will know not to expect easy or glib answers to the difficult questions posed by the subject matter. Instead there are only harder and more pertinent questions.

 

In total stylistic contrast, Small Change's Making the Difference brings us Brigadier John Wahon, who is here to tell us about being a 'winner' and a 'warrior of love' in a cross between a life-coaching class and a clownish lecture, replete with party bags and balloons, Making the Difference sets up a likeable comic scenario before proceeding to frightening the hell out of the audience.

 

Seated behind a desk in the Pleasance's tiny Hut venue, Wahon (played by the immensely likeable Dominic Fitch), using a few simple props, talks us through a surreal version of army training, inflected with the simple-minded, easy-to-remember mottoes of the self-help guide. This is boot camp as personal development. The tone is light and jolly, something like a manic vicar running a children's party. Each new topic is introduced with some new absurdity, and we laugh along, until a point where the audience becomes uncomfortably aware that we are actual being made complicit in something much darker.

 

Saying exactly how this is achieved would spoil the piece, but by the conclusion, the piece has spoken eloquently about torture, inhumanity and the insane things which are done in the name of freedom and love. With Making the Difference, Small Change confirms its talent for creating intimate, thoughtful theatre which delivers a visceral, stomach-knotting charge.

 

 


 

 

 

 

All articles on this site Culture Wars.
If you would like to reproduce material on this site, contact us at mailto:Culturewars@instituteofideas.com.
If you would like to link to this site, we politely request that you use the Culture Wars logo as it appears in the top left hand corner of this screen.
If you would like to exchange links, we would like to hear from you.