Writers: Journeymen Theatre
Directed &Performed by: Lynn Morris and Dave Morris
Reviewer: Becca Savory Fuller
It might be uncomfortable viewing, to spend an hour delving into the theme of state-sanctioned torture, but our discomfort is partly under scrutiny in this sensitive performance by Journeymen Theatre. When we look away, allowing apathy and ignorance to cloud our view of the world, this production asks: are we ‘feeding the darkness’?
Journeymen seek to shine a light into the dark corners of the modern nation state, and the regimes of control and interrogation that exist within it. The production moves deftly through a series of brief scenes and vignettes, sometimes drawing on verbatim interviews, court transcripts and testimony, while shifting from the poetic to the prosaic and back again. We meet Teri England, mother of Private Lynndie England – the American soldier infamously photographed in Abu Ghraib – who both humanises and politicises Lynndie’s involvement in the American prisoner abuses in Iraq. We witness an excerpt from a UK Asylum Tribunal appeal, as a Kurdish asylum seeker attempts to outline his abuses suffered at the hands of Turkish police, in the face of a dispassionate and incredulous British official. And we glimpse the commercialisation of modern interrogation processes, meeting some of those involved: from corporate training facilitators to equipment manufacturers, ‘warehouse operatives’ and the interrogators themselves.
It is here that some of the most poignant moments of the piece emerge, as the company seeks to shine light on the human nature of those who work in interrogation for national security: the work going on ‘behind the doors that are behind the doors’. Though it wears its heart on its sleeve, the production tries not to demonise those involved, widening our attention to the inhumanity of state apparatuses themselves. It is a timely intervention, given recent comments from the newly inaugurated US President.
We might risk leaving the performance with the words of a final character ringing in our ears: ‘there’s nothing kind about the human kind’. Yet Journeymen are keen to move beyond despair or cynicism and direct their audiences to the agencies working to support victims of state-sponsored torture. It is well-intentioned work, but its activist concerns also risk clouding the artistic choices of the piece. The staging, for example, presents a confusing mix of theatrical set and corporate-style stands, presenting quotations drawn from the company’s research. Posters and pamphlets offer further snippets of information on the theme. The piece does not need these resources for us to understand the work, its strength is in the gradual layering of perspectives as we shift from one scene to the next, the words speak for themselves.
Runs until 28 January 2017, then continues to tour | Image: Contributed