Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Stuff Happens"

I took my adult children to see an interesting play last night - "Stuff Happens," by David Hare.  It's a dramatic re-creation of the lead-up to the Iraq war, a mixture of transcripts from actual speeches and articles, and a vivid imagining what was going on behind closed doors in the Oval Office and at 10, Downing Street.  I am amazed that even the theatre is heading into Creative Non-fiction.  The best play I saw last year was "Frost/Nixon" in New York - again, a re-creation of David Frost's actual series of interviews with Richard Nixon.  How do you make drama out of actual meetings and interviews?  If you're a brilliant English playwright, you make it look easy. 

Just as is happening in literature, we want true stories in the theatre now.  There's an urgent need to understand.  We want answers.  

Playing George Bush and Tony Blair were Barry Flatman and Andrew Gillies, old friends from my acting days.  I met Barry in 1972 when I moved into a communal house with Larry, Barry and Fred, an insane improvisational comedy troupe. Barry's portrayal of Bush is superb, though my daughter was critical.  "Barry's too intelligent to play Bush," she said, but that's what's so interesting: his Bush is not a buffoon but something more frightening, a shallow but savvy bully.  And Andrew as Blair is spectacular, showing an idealistic and clever man destroyed by his own loyalty, honesty, decency.  

There are many other fine actors in the play, including another old friend, Guy Bannerman as Hans Blix.  Also Yanna McIntosh as the sphinx-like Condoleeza and Nigel Shawn Williams as the most tragic figure of all, Colin Powell, who crumples and gives up his soul.  

"Stuff Happens" is a Greek tragedy that we watched unfold on the front pages of our newspapers and on TV.  Only a few years after the events occurred, they're already great art.  

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