Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 7 June 2013
Palace of the End, June 6, 2013 ****
Three monologues:My Pyramids; Harrowdown Hill; Instruments of Yearning By
Judith Thompson Production by Daniel Clarke in association with Theatre Works Theatre Works, June 6 to 16, 2013 Reviewer:
Kate Herbert on June 6 Stars: ****
This review is published in Herald Sun on line on Fri June 7.
Thompson’s play, Palace of the End, is emotionally confronting and, in the claustrophobic,
dimly lit space, surrounded by gossamer thin, black drapes, we experience a
hint of the entrapment of torture victims and witness the tragic impact of the
inhumanity of war and its moral ambiguities.
powerful and convincing monologues present three diverse experiences and views
of the various conflicts visited upon the Iraqi people, and the abuses and
devastation caused by both Saddam’s regime and the US and UK forces.
actors address the audience directly and Daniel Clarke’s production does not
embellish the monologues, but allows Thompson’s vivid language, sometimes brutal
imagery and grim stories – each with fleeting glimpses of humour – to speak for
first monologue, My Pyramids, delivered by a genuinely dislikeable character
known only as A Soldier (Hannah Norris), depicts Lynndie England, the US
soldier convicted of the abuse and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib,
justifying her reprehensible actions.
portraying a frenetic, dim-witted, redneck ranting about her mistreatment by
media and a battery of online hate messages, shows her to be deluded (she
compares herself to Joan of Arc), conceited and cruel, with a frightening moral
certainty based on twisted patriotism.
more sympathetic character is David Kelly (Robert Meldrum), the British weapons
expert who died after he was exposed as the unnamed source of a journalist’s
revelation that dossiers on the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction were
fabricated to justify the Iraq invasion.
this monologue called Harrowdown Hill, Meldrum’s performance is measured,
restrained and intimate, evolving from reportage into emotional declarations as
Kelly reveals his guilt, self-loathing and rage at the horrors and injustices
visited upon his friends in Baghdad.
of Yearning, the final piece, is a compelling depiction, by Eugenia Fragos, of
Nehrjas Al Saffarh, an Iraqi dissident who survived torture by Saddam’s
B’athists in the Palace of the End four decades ago, but died in a US bombing
raid in 1991.
is impassioned and dignified as Al Saffarh, peeling back layers of horror as
she tells her tale of torture, loss and defiance.
of the End will challenge you with its poignant, horrific or visceral details
of abusers and abused in wartime, leaving you feeling both provoked and moved
by its characters and themes.