Making a living from dying

James Lailey, Oliver Senton, Helen Chadwick, Rebecca Thorn and Michael Mears. Pictures: Simon Richardson

War Correspondents

Birmingham Repertory Theatre

***

THIS new Helen Chadwick Song Theatre production premiered in Birmingham Rep's The Door – the ideal space for a show this concentrated.

War Correspondents aims to turn the spotlight on those who make a living from reporting and photographing conflict.

It is based on a series of interviews with war reporters from around the world including the UK's Martin Bell and interweaves recordings of their stories with a song cycle of scenes acted out by a cast of five.

The show asks a lot of questions which have been asked many times before in memoires, literature and commentaries. What effect does watching daily horror have on the psyche and the soul? How do those behind the lens respond to photographing suffering? Can you ever walk away from war?

And it also looks at modern dilemmas of war reporting – to embed or not, how to counter the spin, how to see through the stories being weaved by the military.

Rebecca Thorn and Oliver Senton.

Created by composer Helen Chadwick and Olivier Award winning director Steven Hoggett, War Correspondents blends music, dance, poetry and story-telling in a kaleidoscope of images and impressions.

Many of the stories are based on real-life experiences and come from conflicts in Africa, the Middle East, Chechnya and Bosnia.

And the stories are not pretty. We hear of a reporter who meets a sniper who tried to kill him just the day before. Another who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after having a gun put to her head. Another who tells us that rather than becoming 'battle-hardened' he has become 'battle-softened' and over sensitive to others' pain.

The cast, James Lailey, Michael Mears, Oliver Senton, Rebecca Thorn and Helen Chadwick, bring these stories alive with song and movement.

There are times when a lack of words does hamper the action with some scenes too obscure to really gather what is going on. These are moments when the show would benefit from a bit of clarity.

But there is a rapid fire quality to it which takes us through the scenes at a quick pace so that the 75 minute show actually feels much shorter.

War Correspondents has been co-commissioned by Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, Sage Gateshead and New Writing North and is supported by Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Its run in Birmingham is short at just three nights but it will hopefully have plenty more opportunities to provoke thought and discussion.To 26-04-14

Diane Parkes

25-04-14 

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