EFR - Reviews of More Scouse, Saddam?

More Scouse, Saddam?

Tue 16th – Sat 20th August 2016

reviews

Ellie Bartram

at 18:24 on 20th Aug 2016

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‘More Scouse, Saddam?’ depicts the journey of three decorators as they travel from Liverpool to Baghdad in search of work, and find themselves held hostage by Saddam Hussein in 1990. The narrative is based on the real-life experience of Dave Thelwell who was decorating Saddam’s palace in Baghdad when Britain and the USA declared war on Iraq.

Writer Mike Howl couples humorous moments with far more tragic themes, creating a production that is both informative and lighthearted. Indeed, the use of humour to educate the audience about darker issues works effectively throughout. Surprisingly, the performance isn’t too emotionally heavy – yes, at points it is extremely emotionally charged, intense and gripping - but it isn’t difficult to watch. Rather, it is engaging in its lighthearted tone.

Dave (Andrew Games), Jimmy (Alex Jones) and Norman (Sean Bradshaw), comically-characterized lads from Liverpool, provide a hilarious portrait of working class family men. A particularly comical scene in which Jimmy (Alex Jones) expresses greater concern about losing a bet than being taken hostage by Saddam Hussein embodies the type of humour present in this play. As the plot progresses, Dave, Jimmy and Norman are forced to work for no pay, and are banished from their five-star hotel in Baghdad. In reaction to these problems, Dave (Games) steals centrepieces from Saddam Hussein’s palace, transporting them to his own accommodation and using them to transform his lodgings into a nightclub. This use of comedy makes the complexity of the show’s political context both accessible, and easily-digestible for audiences.

The emotional tone of the performance is best conveyed through the characters of Jackie (Ciara O’Neill) and Joan (Leanne Martin), the wives of David (Andrew Games) and Jimmy (Alex Jones), as we see their lives unravel in the absence of their husbands. They feature in many hilarious scenes, but also deeply touching ones in which their facades are stripped back to reveal great depth to their charming characters. However, on the whole, the show’s comic elements outshine its more tragic ones. I would prefer to see slightly more depth given to some of the show’s darker moments, particularly in the build up to and during the hostage scenes.

Nonetheless, ‘More Scouse, Saddam?’ is certainly an enlightening performance. It is well worth a watch if you are looking for a lighthearted play with a deeper message.

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Laura Whetherly

at 21:11 on 20th Aug 2016

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Three Scouse lads. One drunken conversation in a pub. An unexpected hostage situation. 'More Scouse, Saddam?' is a piece of drama inspired by bizarre true events, written by one of the men who was there. In the summer of 1990, when relations between the UK and Iraq were still stable, three young Liverpudlians volunteered to head out to Baghdad to do some work on Saddam Hussein’s new palace. After Iraq invaded Kuwait, British citizens in Iraq were taken hostage – the three lads amongst them.

Dave Thelwell’s comedy drama is an unexpectedly funny, endearing piece of theatre, performed by a cast who are clearly engaged with the real story behind the plot. This isn’t the slickest show – in the performance we watch, one actor entirely breaks character when his fake moustache began to slip, grumbling about “cheap props” – but that suits the nature of the show.

Alongside the main plotline about the Scouse lads kept hostage in a hotel, 'More Scouse, Saddam?' follows the stories of their wives left behind at home, from initial levity about the situation towards fear, and, finally, action. Ciara O’Neill as Jackie and Leanne Martin as Joan steal the show, utterly believable as opinionated Scouse women caught up in events far beyond anything they’d imagined. This particularly comes across in the touching telephone scenes between the wives and husbands, hitting the balance just right between comedy and emotionally-charged drama.

Partially devised by the cast, the script is funny, fast-moving and naturalistic, performed with high energy. Although slapstick and a story about a hostage situation don’t seem natural partners, in this case it works; the protagonists are ordinary people and try to make light of what’s going on around them in order to understand it.

There are some issues with the script – the plot twist (namely that the protagonists become hostages) isn’t made explicit until quite late in the show, and this can be confusing if the audience aren’t aware of the plot beforehand. A later twist, which involves the building of a nightclub, has a lot of potential but is never fully explored or explained, instead being brushed aside in favour of the wives subplot.

Despite these issues, however, 'More Scouse, Saddam?' is still well worth a watch. It’s funny, honest, and, above all, true. For a down-to-earth piece of simple comedy drama, 'More Scouse, Saddam?' packs a punch, and this new drama company clearly have a lot of potential for the future.

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