The mainstream media continues to disregard the reality of the occupation of Iraq, but a new play Prophecy offers an insightful perspective on another US enforced catastrophe.
US writer Karen Malpede’s deep frustration with the horrific consequences of the occupation will be shared by many people around the world. Her frustration is channelled in a form that will engage with people who might otherwise steer clear of the subject matter – the very people the play sets out to challenge.
The play was unable to reach its originally intended American audience due to the lack of US producers willing to back it. The action centres around a couple whose previous relationships tie them to wars in both Vietnam and the Middle East. US military operations in these parts of the world leave them and the people around them struggling to live with the consequences of war generation after generation.
Important issues are touched on throughout, including the brutality of occupation, the way in which soldiers are controlled, popular Western stereotypes of the Middle East and the inadequacies of relying solely on refugee aid work to repair the damage.
Despite a couple of intense scenes, the first act is pretty dull. In contrast, the second act demands incites a great deal of emotion. It also makes the audience morally assess the events, without ever giving the impression that the writer is trying to impose her own moral convictions.
Karen creates and relies upon two very strong-minded female Arab characters to voice the desperate suffering of the victims of war. These characters, both played by the same actress, Najla Said, are also used to tackle the common stereotypes of Arabs – in particular Arab women.
The script is slightly unclear in a couple of places. It becomes difficult to follow as it jumps into the past without sufficient indication. Still this is more than made up for by the heart-warming, chilling, and skilfully described memories of four of the characters. The acting is excellent.
The Vietnam War was an important lesson for the US – a lesson not learned. Prophecy highlights this and illustrates the detrimental impact it has had on the generations that follow.
Prophecy was performed at the New End Theatre, London NW3
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