War at Home

Tue 9th – Sat 13th August 2011

reviews

Rachel Lovibond

at 09:53 on 10th Aug 2011

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‘War at Home’ is proving intensely difficult to award a star rating or criticism according to the criteria employed to review other plays, due to the fact that it is a group of students from Florida responding to the events of 9/11, rather than a piece of theatre. The angle of the play is surprising and refreshing as the students probe and questione the American response to the attacks of 9/11 and the prejudices manufactured as a result of the bombings.

Whilst my personal, reserved, anti-sentimental, more British nature would naturally respond with a gag-reflex to the concept of the entire cast ending the play by coming into the audience to join hands with them and sing, it does not seem quite appropriate, nor remotely my place, to criticise this method of expressing genuine, non-theatrical emotion. That said, possibly this play would be more powerful in front of an audience more responsive to such sentimental and public expression of emotion within the theatre space.

The stage comprised two tall blocks, representing the twin towers, which were dismantled and then reassembled by the students and there were photographs, messages and other tributes to the victims of the bombings on either side of the stage. The cast moved onto the stage from various positions within the audience and proceeded to enact the process of a school day. On discovery of the attacks, each student explored their own personal response to the tragedy, although unfortunately lines such as ‘since we’re, like, getting bombed’ refused the scene the level of poignancy it could have achieved.

The play directly addressed the extremity of some of the xenophobic reactions resulting from the attacks through portraying the after-effects on the daily life of an Islamic girl at the school. There was also a challenging scene involving two Hollywood action-movie producers which probed into questions arising from American foreign policy with regard to the war in Afghanistan. Although the acting of certain scenes left a great amount to be desired, it is impossible not to recognise the value of such an ability to question one’s own actions and reactions in the not so distant past. The manner in which this intensely sensitive topic was handled was controversial and really quite brave and it was the young age of the teenagers who devised the substance of the play which further accentuated its fearless manner of pushing to the core of issues rarely touched upon in such a public space.

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Ryan Sarsfield

at 10:24 on 10th Aug 2011

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With the 10 year anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaching it seems pertinent that West Port High School should choose to perform a play which takes the real life experiences of ordinary Americans of the attacks and incorporates them in to a dramatic piece.

First performed in December 2001, most striking about War at Home is the fact that it makes a real attempt to look critically at the danger of reactionary responses to the event. Now with hindsight, and in the wake of an extensive war on terror, it is refreshing to see a play which dissects the absurdity of hate crime as a response and the potential dangers of misguided over-zealous nationalism. Over the course of the play two towers of boxes (arranged as the Twin Towers) are dismantled and then rebuilt – it’s a clear metaphor for what the play attempts to achieve. A particularly strong point of the script is the ominously prophetic satire of a neoconservative ‘Hollywood action movie’ copy-cat response – ‘Die Hard 9 or 10’ and Gulf War Two: infinite justice’ were just two of a series of ideas thrown about.

The acting is average throughout. Although the important aspect of this play is what it has to say rather than the quality of performance, I would’ve liked the actors to be more self-aware and emotionally engaged (An exception is Julio Chavez’s reading of violinist William Harvey’s letter, which manages to be the most touching scene of the performance). Granted the whole play is an attempt to give voice to all knee-jerk reactions to the events; however I wanted the actors to make clearer the conclusions to the individual debates played out in each scene.

Whilst the hand-holding procession, in which the cast come into the audience and invite them to join in with song, and the enactment of the oath of allegiance in front of the stars and stripes feel a little alien to a non-American, the attempt to reassess and define what it is to be American in the light of such monumental occurrences can only be positive.

War at Home doesn’t really do anything new. The overarching views expressed through the salient narrative thread is blindingly obvious for any liberal minded person. However, it is a commendable attempt to look critically at responses to such a monumental event and all dialogue on such matters has to be welcomed and encouraged.

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