Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mostly irrelevant (Called to Account - Tricycle Theatre)

With the Girl being a wannabe international lawyer it was only a matter of time before we pitched up at the Tricycle to see Called to Account. This is the latest in the line of the Tricycle's tribunal plays, which have seen the edited transcripts of the Saville (Bloody Sunday) MacPherson (Stephen Lawrence) and Scott (arms to Iraq) inquiries cast as stage plays. The twist here being that given Tony Blair has resolutely denied his detractors a real inquiry into the Iraq war, the Tricycle have had to create their own. So off two distinguished international lawyers went to interview a ragbag of witness, including Richard Pearle and Clare Short (I'm not sure who deserves the pantomime Boo Hiss more).

Lets get the praise out of the way first. The acting is first rate, and the design is simple and works well. For once the programme was almost worth the money, with a nice selection of background documents and explanatory text.

However, overall I found the experience rather frustrating, and by the end quite dull. I had half hoped that the creators would have been brave enough to allow the defence to put forward a strident case for Blair's actions, they weren't. Instead the treatment of the evidence is horribly slanted towards proving that Blair isn't a very nice chap. Potentially true, but hardly a particularly challenging thing to say in this day and age. Even worse in taking this line the play subverts its point. In terms of the law Blair's character is beside the point, but the prosecution takes such glee in trashing it that they fail to take the time to prove their specific charge.

Even worse Called to Account fails as a piece of theatre. There is no journey for you to follow, no characters that you can become attached to, no dramatic tension to hold you on the edge f your seat. Just a series of witnesses sitting in a conference room having a perfectly amicable discussion with a couple of lawyers.

One might forgive it its dullness if it was saying something new or was bringing the issues to a wider audience. But it isn't. All these issues have been played out across our TV screens and newspapers for the last four years. All the arguments about the legality or otherwise of the war made a thousand times before. All in all Called to Account adds nothing to our understanding of the Iraq War, and takes two hours to do it.

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