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Review of Gillian Slovo's Another World

Another World: Losing our children to Islamic State is now on at the National’s Temporary Theatre in London. It is a new piece of Verbatim Theatre written by Gillian Slovo and created/directed by Nicholas Kent. This project originally came from an idea Nicholas Kent had and was then developed and written by Gillian Slovo, resulting in an interesting piece of political theatre providing a platform for unheard voices.

The idea of Verbatim Theatre is to interview a subject, or a few, take their direct words, intonations and mannerisms and deliver it to the actors, who then recreate the piece.

The concept of Another World is genius, and the overall execution of the play is phenomenal, however there were moments that needed to be cut and developed further. In essence, this felt like a fantastic production that was still in the workshop stage of the process. The director’s vision is clear, and the simple set draws our attention to the words, stories and emotions delivered by the brilliant actors.

The unique quality of this play is the fact that it seems so genuine, raw and real. The use of real words and real people makes it very hard to disconnect. While all of the acting was excellent Sirine Saba was simply outstanding, with her intonations and ability to make you laugh and cry within the same sentence and it was difficult to remove your focus from her. Yet within the same breath, she knew exactly at which moment to pull back and allow the other stories to be heard. She orchestrated her performance with such precision, it was admirable. Penny Layden also gave an exquisite performance, especially within the last 10 minutes.

While I sing it’s praises on many fronts the entire production had an essence of incompleteness about it. The set was brilliant, the sound excellent, the use of news footage was heartbreakingly clever, the writing was captivating, the acting was acting at its best. And so what, you ask, could possibly make it feel incomplete? It comes down simply to four (perhaps five) simple characters. Having the viewpoints of white politicians and people of influence was equally as important as hearing the voices of the Muslim school children, professor, researcher etc. And while I absolutely agree on their presence within the play I felt that the length of dialogue that went on between them needed to be at least halved. Looking around the theatre it was crystal clear that I was not the only one to have disengaged with the piece. Throwing hefty amounts of legal jargon, political debates and side views may seem crucial when trying to construct this masterpiece on paper, but in reality it just dragged on.

I would love to see this piece restructured, cut down the white jargon and deliver the true voices that are consequences of our actions. These are the voices that struggle to get heard, and these voices are the reason for the construction of this theatre piece, so why did we have to listen to so much nonsense spurted out by officials, the same nonsense and the same officials we see on the news. By all means have their presence because it is crucial and after the first third the whole audience was putty in the director’s hand and at the end too, however pushing this dialogue for too long was boring.

This is a wonderful piece of work and stands out amongst all pieces of theatre within the world in 2016. It is a must­see and an absolute masterpiece in the making. It has potential to be the best piece of current political theatre to ever have been created. I applaud all those who are involved.

Written by Nikica Markot

 

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