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Last uploaded : Friday 25th May 2007 at 23:00
Contributed by : Carol Gould


I was ready to hate ‘Fallujah,’ and even worried I might be ejected for losing it and heckling the actors.

Although I agree with ‘The Evening Standard’ that this seems to be another in an endless string of anti-American plays and books on offer at the moment, its artistic integrity is exemplary.

Performed in a large, cavernous section of the huge Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, London, the production is designed by Lucy and Jorge Orta and the narrative has been compiled by Jonathan Holmes with Dr Scilla Elworthy.

The play is an exposition of authentic testimonies by American and British soldiers, Iraqi eyewitnesses, a journalist and aid workers along with excerpts from speeches by and interviews with Condoleezza Rice.

The descriptions of carnage, the abject fear and hysteria of the unsuspecting civilian population and the complete loss of humanity by American forces in the hell of Fallujah provide a compelling ninety minutes that rush by despite the supreme discomfort of the Truman Brewery venue. Perhaps this is a blasphemy to the multi-media designers and director, but what a powerful piece this would be in a conventional theatre.

The siege of Fallujah, already a long three years ago, unfolded when American troops fired on a gathering of Iraqi civilians, leaving thirteen dead. A major and quite terrifying insurrection followed. American forces ‘pacified’ and occupied the city but not before many civilian lives were lost.

Imogen Stubbs and Harriet Walter excel as witnesses: in their work as aid worker and reporter respectively they are shaken by this living hell. The soldiers talk of ‘ killing the motherfuckers’ and seem to have moved into a universe that has rendered them immune from human compassion. These scenes reinforce the tragic statistics of thousands of Americans now filling veterans’ hospitals at home with protracted psychological illnesses.

One line in the play, about Americans not knowing where Iran or Iraq are, irritates and is indicative of the obsession Britons have about how stupid Americans are. Those of my generation know where Iran is, having been duly traumatised by the protracted 1979 Tehran US Embassy hostage siege. There are over a million expatriate Iranians living in the United States; they have integrated well and have managed to heighten awareness of the Iranian tragedy mongst ordinary 'folks.' Americans are one hundred times more religious than Britons and know their Holy Land. I always like to point out that the nation that gave the world the Founding Fathers, long lists of poets, playwrights, composers, novelists and Nobel Prize winners, NASA, Boeing, Microsoft, and the Mayo Clinic is also the nation that possesses the top five ‘Times elite listing’ universities in the world.

The problem with the play is that it portrays the Americans as the sole perpetrators of violence and the Iraqis as passive victims. The story of the war has moved on since 2004. The grisly saga of Iraq in the past two years has been thousands upon thousands of Shia and Sunni men killing one another with power drills and turning hospital wards into torture chambers. Iraqi television and print journalists are being killed by their fellow Muslims. Literally tens of thousands of Iraqis have been slaughtering each other in a senseless civil war as 130,000 American troops patrol and are picked off like sitting ducks in a brightly-lit pond.

A play that solely indicts America in Iraq reminds me of the joke about the Italian football team dying in a bus crash driven by a Swede on a road in France. The United Nations and the ‘Guardian’ promptly blame Israel.

As this review goes to press the inept and, one suspects, corrupt Iraqi government, like that in Palestine, struggles to keep factions from turning the entire nation into a perpetual killing field.

‘Fallujah’ is a fine piece of theatre and provides a painful picture of a dark episode in American military history. Notwithstanding this, one goes away feeling it ought to be remembered that the majority of coalition troops have served with honour and decency.

'Fallujah' at the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London ( Aldgate East Tube, then a 15 minute walk)

Until 2 June 2007:

book via seetickets: 0870 162 0295

book via the ICA: 0207 930 3647


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