Edinburgh Fringe 2022
A taut psychological thriller seeks justice from the collision of morality and empathy. European Premiere from multi-award winning House Of Cards writer Bill Cain, directed by Olivier winner Guy Masterson (Morecambe, The Shark Is Broken), starring Joshua Collins, Samara Neely Cohen, Daniel Bowerbank, and Fringe favourite, Stage Award and multiple Fringe First winner, David Calvitto.
A young soldier wants to kill everyone- House of Cards writer Bill Cain creates a powerful psychological examination of a young Texan soldier in Iraq gone wrong. Discharged from service against his will, he creates “a war of one” and continues a vicious attack on “the enemy”. Without giving too much away, I will say that the context of war, and the subsequent examination of morality and justification is the crux of this excellent play. Reasoning with complete conviction and belligerent intelligence the soldier, played by the excellent Joshua Collins, explains that he is upholding his oath to kill the enemy and defend his country. Through conversations with lawyers, a psychiatrist, and a chaplain on his way through the system of conviction and imprisonment, a remorseless soldier reveals his inner-demons, and we are left shaken and chilled.
Cain has taken a true story about war- time atrocities in 2006, and torqued it slightly to make a complex and effective anti-war statement that is cleverly argued and achingly sad. A military lawyer lets Daniel know that he has scared “them”. “Them” being the jaded heads of state who are so shocked by the extreme brutality of the soldier’s actions that they have empathy for the enemy. The lawyer wants to capitalize on this empathy and use Daniel’s desire for heroism to make him a public example of why this war should end.
Astute, political and personal, the circles of this soldier’s defenses are progressively peeled away to demonstrate his own personal hell. By the end, the audience is in rapt attention, and leaves the theater to a disturbing soundtrack of Ukranian music. The point is forced home.
Dramatic and powerful, and delivered at an unrelenting pace, 9 Circles is a tour de force for the excellent Joshua Collins playing the Texan soldier, with strong support from Samara Neely Cohen, Daniel Bowerbank and the transformative David Calvitto playing multiple roles. Skillfully directed and produced by Guy Masterson. This is an Outstanding production. The complexities of empathy in the story have led previous reviewers to criticize the play for being too empathetic to the solider. I found this hour-long play of highly charged argument an extremely effective anti-war vehicle. It is not a surprise that the writer is a Jesuit, observing morality from all sides, and referencing classic medieval concepts of hell to give us a structural and moral framework by which to examine this damaged human. Provocative and unforgettable. Despite the brutal subject matter, it is impossible for attention to flag.