PLAY QUESTIONS OUR INVOLVEMENT IN WAR
OTHER PEOPLE’S WARS
Adapted by Dean Parker from the book by Nicky Hager
Directed by David Lawrence
at BATS, Wellington
From 17 Apr 2012 to 28 Apr 2012
Reviewed by Ewen Coleman, 20 Apr 2012
originally published in The Dominion Post
When it was released in September last year Nicky Hager's book Other People's Wars: NZ in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror created quite a stir. His expose of how the NZ Army's crack SAS soldiers cuddled up to the Americans and how they allowed their bases to be used for intelligence gathering and clandestine operations did not go down well with the defence department or the government.
Follow September 11, 2001, New Zealand was considered as being at war which still continues today. In his book Hager uses stories from military personal on the ground in Afghanistan and from thousands of supposedly leaked classified military and intelligence documents to question both the justification of New Zealand's involvement in the war on terror and to show that what the public were told was far from the truth.
Playwright Dean Parker has now condensed the book into a 90 minute piece of theatre which The Bacchanals are currently presenting at BATS Theatre.
Parker also adapted for the stage Hager's book The Hollow Man in 2007 about Don Brash and leaked emails in the National Party but while The Hollow Man had real identifiable characters and an engaging story line Other People's Wars is a narrative told by 10 actors taking multiple roles. It is thus far less engaging as a piece of theatre although the production itself is creatively constructed to give visual impact to the narrative.
The scenes travel back and forward in time at a rapid pace, the actors also taking on their various roles with similar rapidity. And the ingenious way they utilise chairs, tables, boxes, in typical Bacchanal's style, is to be complimented. But the incessant shouting of the narrative to the audience, which only lessens towards the end, becomes irritating and the complexity and detail of the material being recited becomes almost too much to absorb.
However, two moments however stand out, both of which have the potential to be expanded into much more telling moments of theatre. One was an Afghanistan village with the women sitting around prior to be bombed by the Americans and the other is the report on the war, a large red volume of pages being waved about by the group while Jerry Mataparae waves a little red note book as the report the public got to see.
Everyone who sees this production, whether they have read the book or not, will no doubt have their own ideas on what they believe as true and what isn't. And it is probably worthwhile airing it as a way of creating discussion, but somewhere in the rhetoric is material that could make for a much more stimulating theatrical production.
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