Friday, October 27, 2006

How Long is Never?, Tricycle Theatre

There is a terrible thing happening in Darfur. This series of plays about Darfur highlights the terrible thing happening in Darfur. It also highlights theatre's mission to inform. So much so that I will spend much of the rest of this review demonstrating a profound, complacent, lazy and ultimately dangerous ignorance about the situation in Darfur.

The virtue of the plays is that they tell us about Darfur. And also about what we think about it. Jennifer Farmer's Words, Words, Words shows Kofi Annan struggling to complete a crossword clue to which the answer is "genocide". Best of all, Lynn Nottage's Give Again? satirically exposes the liberal dilemma of an American couple divided on what action to take. "What's worse than genocide?" asks one of them. "Maybe knowing it's happening and doing nothing." A humanitarian crisis neatly turned into a play about people a bit like me. Excellent.

Of course, the other way in which these plays are like me is in the unquestioning acceptance of genocide as a basic fact. Nevermind that the UN and Amnesty International have investigated what's going on and said it's not genocide. Nevermind that Jan Egeland, a man so craven towards the Khartoum regime that they've banned him from Darfur doesn't believe there is a genocide. Nevermind that someone like Conor Foley, an aid worker who deals with the kind of humanitarian crisis which is undoubtably occuring doesn't think there's a genocide occuring. Lets all shout genocide and feel good about ourselves.

The result is an engrossing evening that both heightens my misunderstanding of Darfur and outlines the moral and political dilemma it poses to a western theatre critic in the starkest possible terms.

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