Preview: Talking To Terrorists, Playhouse, Oxford; then touring

The people behind the atrocities
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The Independent Culture

Ten years ago, Robin Soans was enjoying a fulfilling career as an actor when he joined a cast of Waiting Room Germany, a verbatim play about the hopes and frustrations of Berliners after the Wall came down. "I was absolutely amazed by how involved the audience became," he recalls. That Royal Court production inspired a change of direction that has seen Soans emerge as one of Britain's leading writers of the verbatim dramas.

Ten years ago, Robin Soans was enjoying a fulfilling career as an actor when he joined a cast of Waiting Room Germany, a verbatim play about the hopes and frustrations of Berliners after the Wall came down. "I was absolutely amazed by how involved the audience became," he recalls. That Royal Court production inspired a change of direction that has seen Soans emerge as one of Britain's leading writers of the verbatim dramas.

Now he has collaborated with Max Stafford-Clark, the director, and his Out of Joint company on Talking to Terrorists. "I realised pretty quickly that one thing that possibly defines the only real terrorists in the world - the ones who don't even have the possibility of being called a "freedom fighter" - is that you couldn't interview them because you'd have your head chopped off," says Soans.

Instead, enlisting various intermediaries, including Dr Scilla Elworthy, the Nobel Peace Prize nominee, the Out of Joint team set out "to find as broad a picture as possible" of what makes and motivates terrorists, by talking to those who have turned their backs on violent pasts. They included: China Keitetsi, who lost track of the number of people she killed as a child soldier in Uganda's National Resistance Army; Jihad Jara, one of the 13 Palestinian terrorists involved in the siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity; Alistair Little and Martin Snodden, the former Ulster Volunteer Force members ; and Patrick Magee, the ex-IRA activist , jailed for the 1984 Brighton bombing.

And the result of all this testimony? "Some people will come to this play expecting a very worthy, grim and bloody account of the world today, and they're not going to get that," says Soans. "Not least because when appalling things happen to people and they recount it with the buffer of history between them and the event, they recount it as entertainment."

To Saturday (01865 305305); then touring ( www.outofjoint.co.uk)

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