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Brighton Fringe 2007

What I Heard About Iraq

James Seabright/Paul Lucas Productions and Fountain Theatre LA

Venue: Udderbelly Brighton


Low Down

A powerful, if one-sided, word-on-word compliation of statements made by politicians, writers and the media about Iraq, presented as a hard-hitting piece of theatre


“What I heard about Iraq”, directed by Hannah Eidinow, is a piece of theatre competently delivered by five actors, quoting verbatim the words of (mostly American) politicians over the last 5 years or so.

The whole thing is essentially a story in quotations prefixed with “I have heard…”, from the early days when the USA was convinced they would be received as heroes in Iraq (a direct quotation of Donald Rumsfeld (which he later denied), to the realisation that the whole emerging chaos is not out of control.

This is, in essence, a form of testifying against the USA and its allies for its shocking misjudgment of Saddam Hussein, Iraq, and the Middle East.

Sharply chosen material, potently structured, there isn’t a line that isn’t powerful for the very fact that it is true and was actually spoken by someone in the real world. Augmented by some well chosen
slide images and music the staging was a bit static, with some creative set pieces but often the actors were more in recitation mode which, in my view, was where the material was most powerful.

Slides and music were not needed for the almost incredible quotes to be delivered. The writing was structured brilliantly and I never lost attention; the windy backdrop of sea-side Brighton pulling at the Udderbelly walls only added to the feeling of a “world out there” and the image of George Bush’s face fluttering distortedly was wonderfully horrific.

“War is bad, but its remnants are worse” said one American

“They hit us at home, now its OUR turn” said an American soldier

Rumsfeld comes off particularly badly, as does Tony Blair

What shocks most is that the verbatim quotes are real. A comedy writer would be hard-put to write such powerful irony. The writer might even be accused of stereotyping and being simplistic yet these are word-for-word quotes.

But the quoting IS selective, which is a missed opportunity. It would be all the more powerful for a bit more balance.

The sheer relentless barrage of quote after quote simply adds ever more weight to their testifying and, in the end, the point is driven home. There’s a story out there, of which we have only a diluted version. I hope this tours the USA!


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