War With the Newts
- Nyla Ahmad
- 16 August 2018
This article is from 2018.
Allegorical take on how racism persists
Congratulations! You've survived the downfall of the human race! Now, on board a historic ship with quite the backstory, it's time to relax and watch the in house entertainment that tells the tale of how it all came to this.
War With Newts is a science fiction play, with a socio-political backbone, expertly melding soundscapes, atmospheric lighting and dynamic acting, to create a scathing critique of colonialism, slavery and the demonization of migrants. The titular newts are discovered to be skilled workers and used as a labour resource by a pseudo-environmentalist (pronounced 'businessman') who claims he is 'saving' them. As the newts show signs of intelligence, their agency is debated through an insistence that their brain weight shows a lack of humanity in a call back to the pseudoscience of phrenology, once used as a justification for scientific racism.
While the allegory can be heavy handed, those moments when the nail is hit on the head, become hugely gratifying, even through the simple mention of 'reparations'. War With Newts builds tension, provides social commentary, literally grabs the audience by the shoulders and demands a fierce interrogation at the current treatment of migrants and people of colour, and its justifications. Unlike in the real world, with politicians showing a stunning disregard for basic human dignity, War With Newts has moments where the power shifts and the narrative pays off – it's science fiction satire honed and cutting.
Summerhall, until Aug 26th (not 20th), times vary, £12 (£10).