Aftermath | New York Theatre Workshop
What was refreshing about this docu-drama, was that the writers (Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen) were less concerned with putting forward their own political viewpoints, and more focussed on telling the true stories of the people involved at ground level.
The US involvement in war has been the subject of a fair amount of theatre produced, but unlike the vast majority of American theatre, Aftermath is told from the point of view of the foreign civilians. Originally developed in 2009 by the New York Theatre Workshop, it humanises the impact of the reign and fall of Saddam Hussein, sectarian militias and the American occupation on the citizens of Iraq. The producers secured a grant to go to Jordan and conduct interviews with refugees who had fled from the war zone. It seeks not to cast judgement or demonise either side; it just gives the people of Iraq a voice.
The 6 distinct stories of people from varied social and religious backgrounds were powerful and personal. They were weaved into a dramatic structure that began with exposing the narrative and then built to a climax, conveying a sense of the overall picture of the impact of Iraqi war.
Using staging and lighting to allow each narrative to move forward separately, the stories developed over the course of the play with the one common thread between them being Shahid (the translator) and us. We, the audience were treated as an entity of American people. The characters hosted us and spoke to us as if we were guests in their home. The translator was present in every scene although the performance was delivered mostly in English. At the commencement of the scene, the characters would begin speaking in Iraqi, which Shahid would translate until a few moments in, when they would say a line together in English. This convention set the audience up to accept that all of the characters would actually have been telling their stories in their native tongue.
It did feel a little bit odd to be addressed as an American, although I could appreciate that was how the performance was designed. There was a small local touch though with some of the characters referring to a soccer match on TV. We discover it was one in which Iraq beat Australia.
The acting was virtually flawless by the extremely professional and experienced cast. The direction was subtle and effective. Aftermath is an emotive piece of theatre which may provoke empathy, anger and perpetuate understanding.
2011 Perth Internationa Arts Festival
The New York Theatre Workshop Production
by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen
Directed by Jessica Blank
Venue: Octagon Theatre, The University of UWA
Dates: Fri 25 Feb - Tue 1 March, 2011
Duration: 1hr 30min no interval
Tickets: $57.50 – $32.50