REVIEW: DEBBIE TUCKER GREEN’S TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION
By Shaun Ajamu Hutchinson
Friday, September 23, 2011.
After a successful run at the prestigious Royal Court Theatre, Debbie Tucker Green's acclaimed Truth and Reconciliation makes a move to the grittier Bussey Building in Peckham, London, where it kicks off the innovative Theatre Local Season 2011.
At its debut last year, the programme opened with Random, another of Ms Green’s works recently adapted for television. The goal of Theatre Local Season is to bring theatre and performance to alternative spaces and this year’s run is about to be housed in a former cricket bat making factory.
Truth and Reconciliation is an impressively put-together appraisal of the human cost of post war settlements in several countries, and it is expertly directed by a multi-tasking Ms Green. And tales of unresolved anguish are also deftly told by this fearless playwright.
With the dialects and rhythms of five countries, this ambitious piece of work explores the personal dilemmas behind global events and expertly channels the shared concerns of a cast of diverse characters - stress, anguish, guilt, envy and resentment - into dramatised encounters in different places. The dialogue is measured and calculated; and sharp, snappy scenes spread over a concise 65 minutes. The play introduces stories of conflict and tension born of – for the audience anyway – an unseen ordeal endured by these characters.
Ms Green is an expert in articulating acutely observed feelings of conflict, betrayal, ethical minefields, and moral mazes. Truth and Reconciliation shows formidable feat and a testament to its award winning writer’s scope. The skill here is to reveal and dramatise the anguish of people who usually have at best marginalised, non-speaking, walk on parts - and give voice to their searing emotional wounds.
Harrowing personal stories are not so much recounted as hinted and insinuated at - a truth that cannot be told - reflecting the incongruity of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions – institutions where there seems to be much talk but little justice.
The 22 person ensemble cast is consistent in quality and commitment, matched by Ms Green’s subtle direction. Carefully measured performances - which could easily lurch into melodrama and overacting - but thankfully don’t - instead display anguish, grief, sadness, resentment, uncertainty, and disbelief.
Of the five stories - only one is resolved satisfactorily. For the audience the remaining four plays are loaded with unanswered questions. And we are left to share in the frustrating aftermath of war. In some ways that is slightly disconcerting – but it does echo the doubt and uncertainty being faced by real-life victims of war, for whom truth and reconciliation provide no answer.
Truth and Reconciliation
Until September 24, 2011.
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square
020 7656 5000 or online at www.royalcourttheatre.com
Opens again on September 30, 2011, at the Theatre Local Season 2011 at Bussey Building, Peckham, London.
Shaun Ajamu Hutchinson is The New Black Magazine's arts editor and a London-based freelance journalist.