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A Real Humane Person Who Cares and All That

Adam Brace
Arcola Theatre
(2009)

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Adam Brace made a big impression with his site specific work about the war in Iraq, Stovepipe, which made its London debut up the road from the Bush in the massive space beneath rather rundown W12 Shopping Centre.

By way of contrast, this excessively-titled follow-up is playing in one of the Arcola's tiny studio spaces. Pleasingly, though the scale might be much smaller, the work is a cleverly conceived morality tale that is deeply thought-provoking. It comprises five scenes that initially run backwards in time before returning to the beginning with chilling consequences.

Using many mini-allegories, Brace takes us to a country at war, perhaps Afghanistan or one of its neighbours. The main characters, though, are Brits and the catalyst for trouble is a trio of feckless writers on a British Council jaunt, who cannot resist the chance of glory reporting on a Warlord in action.

Their kidnapping creates turmoil at a rather farcical British embassy riddled with sex scandals and infighting. It also stretches further afield into the home of a principled, blind mining executive and his French wife.

Eventually, the issues boil down to simultaneous debates about the power struggle between new and old in post-colonial cultures and the relative value of civilised lives versus those of unschooled natives.

The acting trio play nine parts and, though Daniel McGowan shows versatile talents, they sometimes struggle to inhabit their characters. Even so, they manage to inject enough menace to raise the stakes in an enigmatic final scene.

This is a clever play that in 70 minutes poses intriguing questions about a topic that rarely leaves the news headlines - British presence in the midst of internecine battles over centuries old feuds. As such A Real Humane Person Who Cares and All That can genuinely claim to be a play for today.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher