Stovepipe, West 12, Shepherd's Bush, London
Iraqi shoot-out in a shopping mall
Thursday 12 March 2009
The war in Iraq has a lot to answer for, not least an endless stream of Iraqi war plays flooding the market since Black Watch. The London stage is awash with maladjusted returning soldiers, political savants, undercover agents and propaganda broadcasters.
Now the trendy HighTide Festival in Suffolk – supported by Sir David Hare, Sally Greene, Diana Quick and Nicholas Hytner (and Nick's mum, fund-raiser Joyce) – has perpetrated a lively promenade performance in a Shepherd's Bush shopping centre (the smaller one, opposite Westfield) that puts the mockers on the private security racket.
Presented by the Bush Theatre and the National, Adam Brace's scenario is one of pursuit and enquiry in the back streets of Ammam after one of the British security agents, Eddy (Niall Macgregor) goes missing and former soldier and good friend Alan Dobbs (Shaun Dooley) wants to know why and where. He runs into a series of brick walls and goes a bit potty before ending up in a street shoot-out and then a Welsh chapel commemorating another army friend who burnt to a cinder in his armoured vehicle.
It's all hectic stuff, sometimes hard to follow, played out in a grim and unlovely underground maze of interlocking bunkers where the audience is directed after assembling in one of the shopping centre's unoccupied units. We are herded into a Rebuild Iraq Conference and lectured by "the original soldier of fortune" on the importance of private security companies. The sirens wail after Alan and Eddy sign up, and we're bundled into a nasty airport run in Baghdad, then back to Ammam for the story proper.
For the next ninety minutes we shuffle meekly into hotel bars, training centres and city offices with the half-engaged curiosity of privileged voyeurs at one almighty admin and military cock-up. "Stovepipe" means a weapon's malfunction, and the metaphor applies both to the Iraqi security situation and, I'm afraid, Michael Longhurst's production, which mixes some well-written scenes with too much incomprehensible action bluster.
You always end up studying the audience in these situations, too, or worrying about where you're standing and if you're in the right spot to get to the next one. Still, it's a novelty if you've never been to a promenade performance or, I guess, Iraq, before.
To to 26 April (0207 452 3000; www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/stovepipe)
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Games of Thrones actor Lena Headey makes emotional promise to her unborn daughter
- 2 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 3 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 4 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
- 5 16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
Eurovision 2015: Graham Norton returns with another cutting commentary - his best lines
Eurovision 2015: The best moments from Australia's random entry to Lithuania's gay kiss
Clarkson, Hammond and May Live: Top Gear trio returns with a blend of fireworks, AC/DC and 'automotive pornography'
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Eurovision 2015: Estonia seemingly enters Louis Tomlinson from One Direction
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland