- Gareth K Vile
- 27 August 2018
Documentary theatre that hasn't finished yet
The detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe by Iran – on the grounds of spying but most likely in a tit-for-tat arrest to pressurise the British government to pay a debt – is so current that the company have had to add a new ending the show during the Fringe. With a family torn apart by international brinksmanship – her husband and daughter are as much victims as Nazanin – a Boris Johnson speech of idiocy and the British state's enthusiasm for avoiding the truth, this story is not just a documentary about one woman and injustice, it poses questions about contemporary diplomacy.
Told plainly, with only a ticking clock providing a dramatic urgency, Howell productions are correctly more concerned with accuracy than theatrical flair. Indeed, the flourishes (notably the Iranian and upper-class English accents) are distracting and undermine the focus on Nazanin's imprisonment and the work of her husband to secure her release. But throughout the play is the belief that theatre can make a difference and bringing this story to life on stage adds an emotional depth that the headlines can't provide.
The cast are versatile and passionate, but ultimately the quality of performance is secondary to the message, and theatre so rarely speaks truth to power as consistently and directly as in this dynamic and immediate production.