Theatre is designed to educate and The New York Theater Workshop's production of Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen's Aftermath is a lesson that forces us to learn. This is the principal feature of a show that is, by the very nature of its style, repetitive. Don't get me wrong I left the Malthouse Theatre last night completely captivated by the performances of a stunningly talented cast traversing the dialogue of the real people that Blank and Jensen interviewed post reign of Saddam Hussein. For this is what Aftermath is, a recount of the transcripts from the interviews that these talented collaborators have interwoven into a creative piece of educational history from the point of view of 9 Iraqi's across varying class and status.
This one act 90 minute piece opens with an introduction of each character, their lives, professions and idiosyncrasies. It's light, compelling, informative text that warms us to each of these people and immediately transports us into the heart of their world. During this time the dialogue is linked through central character, Shahid, a translator, played with a beautiful poignant understatement by Fajer Al-Kaisi. For while the translator is pivotal in relaying the stories of each character there is never a feeling that one person is more important than another. They are united, telling the same story in varying ways, each of which is critical to the driving movement of the piece. And the piece does drive, albeit eventually. When we hit the final third of Aftermath the material becomes chillingly raw. It's eloquently, emotionally and passionately delivered and the force of each moment, executed by this talented ensemble of actors, is gripping. It's just getting to this point that is somewhat monotonous. It is the plays form that is similar. It's asking for a scene of greater interaction between more, if not all of the characters. With common material running throughout the show, this could be achieved.
Aftermath is beautifully staged by Blank, with music design by David Robbins used as an undercurrent throughout the play subtly digging away at our emotional responses to the lives of the people before us. This piece gives us an insight, a perspective into the U.S invasion of Iraq from the eyes of the local people. It is truly fascinating and a lesson for us all to take away from a night of quality theatre. It becomes glaringly apparent at the conclusion of Aftermath why elements of terrorism and extremism exist in our world today. In pondering Aftermath, Newton's law of motion, being that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, continued to surface in my thoughts. Without serious intervention, communication and apology then the circular evolution of war will struggle to cease. 'There are some mistakes for which apologies are not enough' states Abdul-Aliyy, an Imam. Hopefully one day forgiveness will be granted by those whose lives have been so devastatingly affected by war.
Aftermath Tuesday October 11 to friday October 14 at The Malthouse Theatre Melbourne.