Petrol Jesus Nightmare # 5 (In the Time of the Messiah) (4 stars)

  • 8 August 2006

This article is from 2006.

It might be that Henry Adam’s new play is the victim of historical mischance. For a piece that at one point has Israeli soldiers claiming not to like their neighbours much, but wanting nothing but moderation and peace with them might seem the thirteenth stroke of the clock given what we’re reading in the newspapers. All the same, there’s a power to Adam’s writing that works well with his characters and situation.

This is a bombed out house in the war torn occupied territories in which two soldiers suffer one indignity after another through the anarchy of the body, with defecation and masturbation over a dog eared pornographic magazine all occurring in a confined space. From here it gets grimmer, for the sudden invasion of their space by a drunken New York Rabbi’s widow, a semi retired Texan oil millionaire and their officer leads to succession of scenes in which the claustrophobia of the context leads to violence and ugliness that you’ll need to be prepared for.

Philip Howard’s production brings out the paranoid and ghastly circumstances well - there’s no shortage of moments where you won’t know whether to laugh or gag on the way to a shocking dénouement, as the culpability of all religions in war is exposed. What is revealed in the course of things is a conspiracy theory that is less plausible than thought provoking in asking us to question whom exactly, Israel or the USA, is the prime mover in the current conflict in the Middle East - I will not treat the reader as a child by pretending that international terrorism could be a suspect. The individuals created by the conflict - young men hanging on to shreds of past history, but now only attuned to war as a lifestyle are the tragedy of this geo-political conflict. Strong performances all round, though Alexander Mikic’s burned out squaddie with enough self awareness to feel his plight is particularly affecting, and Susan Vidler’s grief stricken dysfunctional widow are intensely watchable.
(Steve Cramer)

Traverse, 228 1404, until 27 Aug (not 14, 21), times vary, £15 (£4.50-£10).

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