More than 500 camps exist to extract information from those disenfranchised by society – extraction by torture. Into one such camp come Tom (Daniel Hoffmann-Gill), a squaddie who signed up to get back at the ‘scum’ who’ve been responsible for the deaths of his friends, and Alex (Stephen Hudson), a translator (and lieutenant) who has drifted into the job. What they find frightens and appals them, driving them to act against the regime.
While Tom’s rebellion is born out of a lack of understanding, Alex takes a moral stance that puts him at serious odds with his immediate colleagues and superiors. The camp commander Major Chaudry (Abdel Akhtar) and the sinister, pregnant interrogator Helen (Kate Ambler) face Alex down with their own moral arguments for torture and protecting their way of life at any cost. Completing the characters is Demissie (Damian Lynch) – a prisoner being interrogated who has his own particular reasons for having acted against the system.
The parallels with current events at Guantanamo Bay and Orwell’s 1984 are clear throughout this splendidly realised play. Strong performances from all participants – particularly Daniel Hoffmann-Gill as the bemused / angry / homesick Tom, and Stephen Hudson as the impotent but outraged Alex – create believable characters driven by realistic motives. The major question of clashing moral standpoints is left unresolved as individuals attempt to fight a system that is convinced of its own correctness.
A stark set and invasive sound create and maintain an atmosphere of tension and oppression and Matt Aston is to be congratulated on his strong direction of this thought provoking play. Theatre Absolute continues to produce excellent work – much of it written by Chris O’Connell – well into their second decade. This production demonstrates that strong characterisation and energetic performance combine to present excellent, though-provoking theatre for their audiences.