Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


Requiem for Ground Zero


Crescent Theatre Studio


I was in Sainsbury’s when news broke about the first plane striking the World Trade Centre. I watched the unfolding drama on a bank of TVs on display, amazed that no crowd had formed.

Shoppers passed by, some stopped, watched for a few moments and moved on, even after the second plane struck the second tower.

Perhaps with the Vietnam war, Falklands, Kosovo, Desert Storm and so on being turned into real reality TV we had become immune to shock and horror, perhaps people were just too busy, hurrying by, blinkered by necessity; whatever their reason, their world had just changed and they didn’t realise it.

Steven Berkoff did though, creating Requiem for Ground Zero, 100, four line verses of a staged poem in iambic pentameter which he performed at Edinburgh 11 months later.

Two years later, with his support, Stage2 turned his one man performance poem into an ensemble piece adapted by Liz Light.

If Euripides had written a play about the devastating attack it could well have looked like this with the story and emotions expressed by a 24 strong Greek chorus.

Berkoff condenses the attack, which started at 8.46am on September 11, from the 2,977 souls and 19 terrorists who died down to a few individuals. Almost 3,000 dead overwhelms, a person with a name and family is something we can relate to.


Roko Camaj, who operated the automated window washing equipment which cleaned the towers - except for the wider windows on the 107th floor of the South Tower that had to be cleaned by hand, 1,300 foot in the air! Picture: Sara Krulwich for The New York Times in 1994.

There is Roko Camaj played by Hemal Pallan. Roko was 60, an Albanian immigrant, married with two children, who had cleaned the 46,300 windows of the World Trade Centre, 'wiping its eyes', since it opened in 1973.

Or John Ogonowski, played by Harrison Allen, the 50-year-old pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, married with three daughters, who was killed by hijackers before his plane was flown into the north tower.

Brian ‘Brad’ Sweeney, aged 38, played by Luke Rowbottom, was on United Airlines flight 175 and left a phone message for his wife, Julie, played by Florence McGhee, telling her he loved her and spoke to his parents as the hijacked plane flew to its doom.

Peter Hansen, 32, played by Elijah Dix, was on the same plane with his wife Sue and two-year-old daughter Christine. He phoned his father telling him he thought they were going to die but not to worry - it would be quick.

It was not just those in the towers or on the planes who died. Lt Mike Quilty, 42, played by Robert Fretwell, married with a son and a daughter, was one of 343 firefighters, along with 60 police and eight paramedics, who died when the buildings collapsed.

It is emotive stuff from a young cast aged nine to 20, the majority of whom had not been born when 9/11 changed from a date to a dark moment in history.

The emotion is sustained by an imaginative setting from director Liz Light and an overhead video projection of news clips and images created by Alice Nott and Alexander Butler along with some evocative music composed by Richard Radnor-Williams.

The music included a mournful trumpet solo of Onward Christian Soldiers in a minor key played by Ray Butcher, as Bush and Blair, Allen and Fretwell again, in masks, plotted retaliation.

twin towers crash

Rescue workers survey the wreckage of the collapsed towers

Unusually for Stage2 there is no one on stage before the start, just a collection of videos including Martin Luther King Jnr’s I have a dream speech, a reminder from the past of the rising tide of racism, and Islamaphobia, since 9/11.

This is black box theatre with a cast in uniform black, like a Greek chorus, speaking as one much of the time.

As a character appears a coloured jacket, blouse, skirt or hat is donned to give he or she life, then discarded as the actor once more embraces the uniform blackness of the chorus.

At each side of the stage, rising like symbolic twin towers, flights of steep steps, lit, when needed by harsh white spots while Light created a central tower, a pyramid of bodies, centre stage at one point.

It is not an easy watch; the pace and emotion is relentless with sometimes the entire cast on the point of hysteria, at other times a single, soft voice telling of blue skies or expressing a quiet resignation of fate.

With just a series of cubes there were clever representations of a crowded subway train, and of the cabins of planes, with passengers, tellingly, assuming crash positions between lines.

At times scenes of panic take over, well controlled by a well-drilled cast, at other times there is stillness and silence – silence being a powerful dramatic tool when, as here, skilfully used.

It is not an easy subject for young actors, especially as the lines are split between various narrators, characters and chorus, which means that the lines still have to flow even as the poem is passed on like a baton in a relay race. It demands not only spot on timing but also understandting and empathy with the word structure and timbre.

A much easier task if you are the only person delivering the lines, feeling the natural rhythm and emotion and expressing it yourself. That the words still seemed to flow with no hint of any sing song rhythm developing around the four line stanzas of a poem, was a credit to the cast's measured delivery.

Since 9/11 we have had many more acts of terrorism around the world, most recently, closer to home, Manchester and Borough Market in London, and, although not terror related, there are echoes of Grenfell Tower, with people trapped high in a burning building with some leaping to a certain – but quick – death as the flames threatened.

The sombre ending with a tribute wall filled with scribbled messages by the cast also had echoes of more recent events. The result is a solemn and emotive production showing the power of theatre to move and provoke thought. To 22-07-17

Roger Clarke



NARRATORS: Joel Fleming, Roma Pallan, Emily Cremins, Maya Bennett, Laura Dowsett, Ellie Waide, Georgie Nott, Dillan McKeever, Olivia Grant-Bryson, Meg Luesley and Toma Hoffman, CHARACTERS: Roko Camaj - Hemal Pallan, John Ogonowski/Blair -Harrison Allen, Brad Sweeney - Luke Rowbottom, Julie Sweeney - Florence McGhee, British Person - Isabella Jones-Rigby, Mike Quilty/Bush - Robert Fretwell, Pete Hanson - Elijah Dix, Air Hostess - Teigan Jones, Lucky Person - Funnaya Collins and Office Worker - Ella Keavy. CHORUS: Sophia Adilypour Blair Natty-Brown,  Alice Berril l Katelyn Stephenson,  Joseph Hack-Myers Arwena Rytlewska  

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