A Real Humane Person Who Cares and All That – Arcola

I first saw this play by Adam Brace (who subsequently wrote Stovepipe for the Bush) on the Edinburgh fringe in 2008 and vividly remember being hugely impressed with it’s sardonic wit and bleak take on pragmatism in British diplomacy and business working in central Asia (think Uzbekistan or similar).

Elegantly structured, the piece goes back in time through three scenes in which three different trios (all played by Daniel McGowan, Benjamin Peters and Tiffany Wood) enact moments before and after the arrest/kidnap of three British writers by a local militia after taking photos at a public execution. It then loops back and travels outward again, picking up the first two scenes and concluding them, as they play out with our increased knowledge resonating throughout them. There’s a beautifully clever simplicity to it.

The characters are an unlovely bunch; clearly graduates from The Thick of It school of creative swearing (“They are going to fuck you out to dry” is a particularly good example). However, while it remains a fierce, unsentimental bit of work – at its core is the argument that three British lives aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of things – on second viewing, one does spot more holes in the piece’s fabric. Jamie Harper’s production and young cast get the job done with commitment and no frills.

*** (three stars)

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