"Timely reminder of Blair's Legacy"
by Peter Carrington for remotegoat on 03/06/16

Inside the wood-panelled council chamber of Battersea Arts Centre, an inquiry has been assembled. Its purpose is to examine and scrutinise the events that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the war and its consequences. The framing for Chilcot is the Iraq Inquiry chaired by Sir John Chilcot begun in 2009 but this show has a wider scope. In between extracts of hearings at the Inquiry are interviews with witnesses collected by the writers. This is a piece of documentary theatre; a lot of dry facts and witness statements underlined with serious voices. It requires attention, consideration and active listening. The verbatim testimony is too emotive for suspension of disbelief to be truly effective so instead Matt Woodhead and Richard Norton-Taylor give the audience evidence to weigh up.

The language of this documentary is one of listening to testimony. Aside from short music, audio or video from the period to break up the scenes this is a play of concentrating on words rather than actions. During scenes of the hearing the screens show a live feed of witness or committee. This view allows the audience to see both at once and scrutinise things more closely. The blue desks and formality of the traverse layout are reminiscent of the inquiry itself and the soft-edged harsh downlight of Will Monk’s design adds to the feeling of interrogation. What further cements this feeling is the interviews outside from the inquiry being delivered directly to the audience; encouraging them to cross-examine the emotional consequences. All this requires the audience to concentrate hard on what is being said – leaning forward, brow furrowed like the inquiry committee themselves.

The well-chosen cast give a showcase of their superb talent by switching between roles of inquisitor, witness and victim. The Cast of 6 play multiple roles, regardless of gender or ethnicity and they move seamlessly between them; accurately judging the weight of each line. A few highlights amongt many are Thomas Wheatley as Sir Roderic Lyne, from whom the bulk of questioning seems to come, carried across the room by his serious voice. Gary Pillai as nervous Attorney General Lord Goldsmith heralding the first troubling facts that draw the audience in. Sanchia McCormack delivers some terrifying statements with the matter-of-factness one would expect from Dr Hans Blix or Eliza Manning-Buller, former Head of MI5. These are but a few of the memorable moments and performances in Chilcot.

Chilcot requires the audience to determine their own answers, even if, like the families of soldiers they want the lies exposed. What Chilcot does effectively is remind the audience of some of the key facts inquiry raised, the decisions and the legacy of that conflict prior to the final report coming out in July. Chilcot hits hardest when listening to witnesses outside the Inquiry room, who have to live, day to day with the consequences whether or not the report damns those responsible.

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