Time of Our Lies at the Park Theatre, London. © Tomas Turpie

‘A battle cry against those who govern the USA’: The Time Of Our Lies – Park Theatre ★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews, Ticket recommendations by Carole WoddisLeave a Comment

Park Theatre, London – until 10 August 2019

There is much in Bianca Bagatourian’s The Time Of Our Lies that reminded me of George Brant’s Grounded, the play that told the story an American woman drone pilot and in so doing brought home the dehumanising effect of modern warfare on those shielded by distance but not by the after-effects of sensing the violence they were inflicting on other human beings.

Join Terri Paddock for a post-show Q&A with writer, director & cast on 6 August 2019

Join Terri Paddock for a post-show Q&A with writer, director & cast on 6 August 2019

Bagatourian’s powerful amalgam of verbatim text and recollections of the American historian and human rights activist, Howard Zinn (first seen in 2014 at Edinburgh), creates much the same crise of conscience in its main character, whose role as a bombardier in WWII turned out to be one of the most radicalising moments of his life.

Zinn, originally from a poor Jewish background in Brooklyn, died in 2010. He went on to write the best-selling A People’s History of the United States and The Time Of Our Lies pays homage to Zinn’s life-long commitment to fighting for peace and civil and human rights.

And History, said Zinn, was and is the bulwark and one of the few defences against a lying government.

“If you don’t know history, it is as if you were born yesterday, anybody in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it. When the President says we must go to war for liberty and democracy, or because we’re in danger, if people had some history behind them, they would know how many times presidents have announced to the nation the very same thing.”

Zinn’s words anchor an evening that is interspersed with extracts by other testimonies including a devastating account of the My Lai massacre of innocent victims by American soldiers in 1968 and a no less emotional speech `Am I Not a Woman’ in connection with African-Americans and voting rights.

In Ché Walker’s dynamic, scarlet splashed, viscerally staged production, The Time of Our Lies is nothing if not a battle cry against those who govern the USA and its militaristic and foreign policies, from South American to Afghanistan and the Philippines – one especially poignant now when it seems gripped by the darkest of anti-democratic forces, by lies and `fake news’.

I can’t remember a play or production that carried such anti-American feeling or passion against its own government since the anti-Vietnam era when a slew of plays arrived from the States written by young Americans either vehemently against the war or veterans who had  like Siegfried Sassoon in WWI, come to question the whole ethos and rationale of war and those who promoted it.

Zinn says in the play he remained anti-war – though not a pacifist – and the excerpts Armenian Bagatourian has chosen from his writings together with Walker’s terrific ensemble being kitted out either in tee-shirts or combats, gives an extra edge to a production whose heart is equally rooted in socialism and the fight for workers’ rights and the down-trodden.

Indeed a speech by Venezuela’s former socialist President, Hugo Chávez rounds off a production whose internationalism is threaded through every fibre of its being, from its multicultural cast to Sheila Atim’s songs sung in languages ranging from South American to south east Asia.

© Tomas Turpie, cast of The Time Of Our Lies – the human side of warfare…

All in all then a potent, moving rallying cry that carries Amnesty, Susan Sarandon and Zinn’s daughter’s approval – if one, this time carrying an unforeseen burden: its main actor, Daniel Benzali withdrew leaving an impressive Martina Laird to step in at the last minute.

The press night performance was delivered by her, reading from the script – heroic in the circumstances and, taking nothing away from her, simply highlighting the immense contribution given to this particular production by Walker’s ensemble of Alvaro Flores, Lanna Joffrey, Trang Le, Claire Lebowitz King, Anais Lone and Jessye Romeo. They deserve every plaudit, every one of them.

The Time Of Our Lies
by Bianca Bagatourian

Cast:
Martina Laird

Ensemble:
Alvaro Flores
Lanna Joffrey
Trang Le
Claire Lebowitz King
Anais Lone
Jessye Romeo

Director: Ché Walker
Composer: Sheila Atim
Choreographer: Bonnie Oddie
Lighting Designer: Arnim Freiss
Video Composer: Gamal Chasten
Video Choreographer: Maureen Fleming

Producer: Bianca Bagatourian, Jeff Kalousdian, Paul Sanoian

First performance of The Time Of Our Lies at Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London, July 30, 2019. Runs to Aug 10, 2019

Review published on this website, Aug 3, 2019.

 

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Carole Woddis on RssCarole Woddis on Twitter
Carole Woddis
Carole Woddis has been a theatre journalist and critic for over 30 years. She was London reviewer and feature writer for Glasgow’s The Herald for 12 years and for many other newspapers and magazines. She now review for websites including The Arts Desk, Reviews Gate and London Grip and blogs independently at woddisreviews.org.uk. Carole is also the author of: The Bloomsbury Theatre Guide with Trevor T Griffiths; a collection of interviews with actresses, Sheer Bloody Magic (Virago), and Faber & Faber’s Pocket Guide to 20th Century Drama with Stephen Unwin. For ten years, she was a Visiting Tutor in Journalism at Goldsmiths College and for three years with City University. Earlier in her career, she worked with the RSC, National Theatre, Round House and Royal Ballet as a publicist and as an administrator for other theatre and dance organisations.
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Carole Woddis on RssCarole Woddis on Twitter
Carole Woddis
Carole Woddis has been a theatre journalist and critic for over 30 years. She was London reviewer and feature writer for Glasgow’s The Herald for 12 years and for many other newspapers and magazines. She now review for websites including The Arts Desk, Reviews Gate and London Grip and blogs independently at woddisreviews.org.uk. Carole is also the author of: The Bloomsbury Theatre Guide with Trevor T Griffiths; a collection of interviews with actresses, Sheer Bloody Magic (Virago), and Faber & Faber’s Pocket Guide to 20th Century Drama with Stephen Unwin. For ten years, she was a Visiting Tutor in Journalism at Goldsmiths College and for three years with City University. Earlier in her career, she worked with the RSC, National Theatre, Round House and Royal Ballet as a publicist and as an administrator for other theatre and dance organisations.

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