Blurred Justice

Wed 16th – Tue 22nd August 2017

reviews

Clarissa Mayhew

at 14:06 on 18th Aug 2017

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To call this play ‘heavy handed’ would be to be too weak. Co-written and directed by Clarissa Kim and Yasemin Gava, ‘Blurred Justice’ felt like a lecture rather than a play, and an highly manipulative presentation at that.

The premise of the play presents us with a court scene - the trial of Yemeni Houthi militia fighter Sharif - and asks the audience to acquit or convict him of a terrorist charge. Unfortunately, despite the massive emphasis on factual exposition regarding the civil war in Yemen, the script fails to outline the legal complexity of the definition of terrorism or indeed to treat the law with anything but the most contemptuous attitude. A highly complex international legal issue is thus reduced to a purely emotive matter - and in the most farcical manner.

We surmise that the judge who tells us he “knows nothing about Yemen” is perhaps not the right overseer of this case but wonder if it would not be possible to suggest this with even a touch of subtlety? Blabbering about “beef wellington”, he has the character credibility of a puppet.

Not only is the script unconvincing but the acting is wooden and lacking nuance. Where flashbacks to his past life in Yemen should help to create a sympathetic sense of Sharif as a man, we feel little. The representation of the Houthi is remarkably one dimensional, given its supposed intention to reveal to the unsympathetic British court their common humanity. Each conversation seems dominated entirely by war or sex - or, in one particularly gruesome moment, both at once as the Houthi almost suggest using rape as a weapon of war against the Saudis. The unclear writing and delivery makes this difficult to discern. An intention to “grab them by the pussy”, in a relatively clever allusion to Donald Trump’s notorious phrase, highlighted a level of hypocrisy in Western criticism of the Yemenis, yet seemed to suggest that this completely negated the validity of such criticism.

It is not all negative: the cardboard box skyline of ancient Yemen was a clever and simple effect to create a sense of a distinct location to contrast with the British courtroom. The wedding preparation scene was actually warm and created for the first time a feeling of the communities at stake in this humanitarian crisis as the women prepare food and gossip together. Pity that was all.

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Darcy Rollins

at 15:10 on 18th Aug 2017

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'Blurred Justice' is a play that sets itself a very noble task: to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Performing Change (created by Clarissa Kim and Yasemin Gave) is a theatre company that evidently intends to do just that. In this play, it is the trial of Yemeni Houthi rebel 'Sharif Fathi' (Dhvel Patel) and it is for the audience to decide whether he is a terrorist or not. Unfortunately their mission is not as successful as they would like.

What exactly we are voting on is unclear as is what court this is. While I hoped, when this show begun, that a clever parody of the legal system might emerge, something which is rife with potential for parody, this was not the case. Instead, the audience was treated to an odd idea of what a court is. A place where the judge gratuitously tells the prosecutor to “shut up” seemingly. The judge (Sean McAlinder-Barber) is one of several jarring attempts of comedy in this show, which do not provoke laughter and undermine any dramatic impact the show might have.

The writing fails to bring any depth to the characters or the issues at hand, as it abandons the old, wise adage of "show, don't tell". For example, Sharif's soon-to-be sister-in-law Ramita (Hannah Mribiha) tells him, "I don't understand how you became so radicalised." Patel, then, tells her. Depth is almost explored in his answer but it is too brief to have an emotional impact and to justify the obvious set-up. One of the strongest moments of this show is when it steps away from Sharif's one-tone anger and moves to the community of women affected in the crisis as they talk and laugh. Sadly, the dialogue still feels expositional and not credible as they cite the troubles that have befell them.

I do admire this company for attempting to create such a show with such a clear, and such an admirable, purpose. Many shows do not attempt to do anything so bold. I would like to sincerely thank everyone behind this show in what they are trying to do. Very, very sadly, 'Blurred Justice' only does a small amount of what it intended to do; instead of bringing colour and life to what are often just flashing headlines, it presents a cardboard outline of a crisis.

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