For the Sake of Argument

Harry Darell
Admission Productions
Bridewell Theatre

Piers Bradley (Matt Weyland) Billie (Harry Farmer) Maria Bradley (Paula Cassina) and Eleanor (Ashleigh Cole) Credit: Charles Flint
Mark (Georgie Farmer) Credit: Charles Flint
Eleanor Hickock (Ashleigh Cole) and Nelson the pub landlord (Greg Snowden) Credit: Charles Flint

These days, you wouldn't expect anyone to speak positively about the decision to invade Iraq. It resulted in too many deaths, too much continuing lethal chaos. But that’s not the way the character Eleanor Hickock (Ashleigh Cole) sees things. She still finds reasons to parade her support for the war, even if it irritates the hell out of her friends at her local pub’s debating club where she turns a debate about Putin and Blair into praise of the Iraq intervention.

It’s after this row that Maria Bradley (Paula Cassina) arrives at the pub claiming to be a fan of Eleanor’s writing. She invites Eleanor to come to dinner to talk about her son Mark (Georgie Farmer), who was inspired at the age of nineteen by reading her journalism to join the army to fight in Iraq, where he was killed by a roadside bomb.

It's an opportunity Eleanor cant resist. However, not all members of Maria’s family are as well disposed to her and Mark’s brother Billie (Harry Farmer) is determined she should face up to her responsibility for Mark’s death.

The play has the makings of a tense thriller, but the dramatic tension never seems to build.

Although the central narrative is trying to explore how we cope with war trauma and the way we deal with political disagreements, they are lost in very artificial arguments, improbable plot developments and characters that lack depth. There are also scenes and dialogue in the show's one hundred and forty minute running time that contribute little and distract. For instance, the play could easily lose a scene in which a barman wakes in his shorts with a hangover. His later squabbles with the barmaid also seem to have little purpose.

Harry Darell, who wrote and directed the play, says he wants it to “promote... compassion and understanding, highlighting the dangers of flippantly taking strong positions on important issues and refusing to see things from an alternative perspective.”

Although the play fails to do this, it misses the point that the reason the West keeps invading and meddling in the affairs of other countries isn't because it can't understand or see alternative perspectives. They couldn't miss them as millions of people marched the streets against war. But they were and are determined to increase their economic control, even if that means war and have the power to ignore those who object. And until that changes, it won't matter how much they appear to understand “an alternative perspective.”

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna