[2007006] What I Heard About Iraq

What I Heard About Iraq (FringeTIX)

(ooooh – dunno; five local peeps, all very good) @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)

12:30pm, Wed 7 Mar 2007

Right. Well. Hmmmm.

This is a tricky one.

I really didn’t like this. It felt cheap and sensationalist and lazy – but, reading those words back, they all seem to paint the wrong picture. It’s certainly a noble piece, and maybe my opinion is tainted by the reactions of the audience, and its heart is in the right place. But still…

It’s very simply performed – five orators, five TV sets all displaying the same footage as is projected onto the stage backing. “I heard,” they all begin, before reciting quotes acquired from the press – occasionally dropping into character (one chaps’ John Howard & Tony Blair impersonations, in particular, were sublime), using a variety of accent, volume. Snippets of comments that were either immediately ludicrous (utilising the audience’s hindsight) or later contradictory.

That’s it. Given that description, you can probably figure out how it went. Imagine Rumsfeld quotes about “immediate danger” contrasting with denials of same, and you get the idea. There’s probably a thousand webpages and YouTube videos that do the same thing.

And that, I feel, is symptomatic of this productions’ folly. It clutches at the low hanging fruit, the obvious jokes that even the I-watch-the-news-once-a-week crowd should be able to assimilate. And, let’s face it, these things aren’t jokes – they’re terrifying. It’s not funny that people in power say these things, it’s abominable. Yet the audience reaction was often that of titillation, of mirth – exclamations of disbelief were rare.

To be fair, the video aspect of the performance was occasionally impressive – but plagued by technical difficulties; to their credit, the performers didn’t let this bother them. There was some genuinely shocking footage of a lone Iraqi being shot dead in the street – double-tapped, as soldiers are wont to say. The lack of September 11 footage at the beginning of the performance, though, was odd – they used a simple black screen with the soundtrack that normally accompanies that footage. That proves an interesting counterpoint to Michael Moore’s footage in Fahrenheit 9/11, where the footage was presented accompanied by silence; I know which one had a greater emotional impact on me.

Maybe I’m just being too critical. But it annoys me no end that these snippets of speech are being taken out of wider context and juxtaposed to create (perhaps incidental) humour. Or maybe the humour was simply inferred by the audience, and the cast were as horrified as I at the reception. But the lack of context of these sound-bites – and, more worryingly, the inclusion of impactful statements from obscure sources – just demonstrates the power that the sound-bite can have. I have no idea whether some of those Things I Heard About Iraq are true or not; their inclusion alongside widely reported quotes implies that they are, but I suspect I’ll never know.

Gah. Knots in my head.

Didn’t like it. Agree with the premise, it just felt like they were reaching for the low-hanging fruit. I’m sure thousands of others will love this show for the shock-and-awe that it wants to deliver.

(Great moment before the show started, though. A Holden Street Theatres official swanned through the waiting throng of TAFE students… “Any Media? Are you with The Media?” Once gathered, The Media were all ushered past the bubbling queue towards the theatre; approaching the door, however, the bulk of The Media dropped back to allow the precession of Samela Harris and Peter Goers, like the Belle and Beau of the Ball, Reviewing Royalty. After the performance, they were bid to remain in The Studio for lunch; “everyone else, the lunch van is outside.”

Jealous? Hell no. Resentful? Now we’re getting somewhere.)

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