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Fringe Report is now closed. Fringe Report closed on its 10th anniversary, Thursday 12 July 2012. It remains online as a record of 10 exciting years in the arts. Till July 2013, previously unwritten content is being added to the site from the past 10 years, but we are no longer reviewing new material. You can still write to us on the existing email addresses. Good luck with your shows.The Ides of March
Verdict: Gritty debate about terror
The Ides of March is a what-if play. The what-ifs are the consequences of Australia - where the play is set - being devastated by a terrorist attack with nuclear weapons. 300,000 have died and society has turned upon itself, abandoning liberty in order to preserve the peace and security which most of the population seem to want. Speech, worship and freedom of movement have all been curbed, so that nothing like the Ides of March - the name for the terrorist event - can happen again. The country is policed by NISA, a mysterious secret security force which does what it wants. There's a feisty academic who believes that repression feeds terrorism, and her estranged husband who is now a senior government official, a Muslim journalist, his determined son, a father who has lost his wife and struggles to bring up a young daughter.
There's a lot to like in The Ides of March, but it tries to do many things. These include trying to open minds to questions about the limits of state power; to ask who guards the guards; to examine ideas about the unity of society; to ask what kind of future is wanted and how people are prepared to legislate for it; and to question the dividing line between justice and revenge. Unfortunately, much of this – especially in the opening scenes – comes over as polemic: one character puts one side of the case, another another. And there is the way in which the back-story is explained: how the events of the Ides of March and their subsequent consequences are filled in. Again, especially early on, it's clunky. But this is not a subtle production.
Whatever is going to happen happens squarely in front of the audience. With those TV values in view, the production doesn't spare the viewer. This is particularly so in the second half, featuring NISA's interrogation techniques. There's no lack of grit, and no lack of gritty determination - particularly on the part of Dr Laura Hammond (Robyn Moore) who bears the brunt. The characters become more attractive as the play wears on. Andrew William Robb's politician attracts more sympathy. Noel le Bon's Oliver has to be re-assessed at the end. Matthew Wade's Hameem is always well-judged. There are a lot of great lines (someone is described as 'a squinty-eyed weasel trying to disguise a hard-on') and some moments of unexpected wry comedy which do help to lighten the fairly dark mood. It's long. It runs for well over 2 hours. It seems to burst out of its seams as a production in this small space. It's up-front, leaves little to the imagination, with comprehensive views of every side in complex discussion. Overall it's bludgeon rather than scalpel.
Cast Credits: (alpha order): Noel le Bon - Oliver O'Brien. Matthew Burton - Guard/Aide. Jodie Kumblé - Joni O'Brien. Robyn Moore - Dr Laura Hammond. Andrew William Robb - Warren Hammond. Matthew Wade - Hameem Ziyad. Fanos Xenofós - Ahmed Ziyad.
Company Credits: Writer - Duncan Ley. Director - Adam Spreadbury-Maher. Designer - Ryszard Andrzejewski. Casting Director - Keith Myers. Stage Manager - Roxy Philip. Assistant Director - Zee Faloon. Assistant Designer - James Sheppard. Producer - Simon Beyer. Company - Good Night Out Productions in collaboration with Simon Beyer and the White Bear Theatre Club
(c) Michael Spring 2008
reviewed Thursday 27 Nov 08 / White Bear, London
Fringe Report (c) Fringe Report 2002-2013