6 – 30 August (not 17, 24) 7.30pm (8.30pm) @ Pleasance Dome
by Emily P
To experience Theatre Badac’s The Cry one must be lead through a decaying and boarded-up building of once institutionally classical beauty into a stripped and cavernous room devoid of natural light. At one end an arena of wire crowd barriers encircles three men; two the khakied torturers, one the prisoner. Steve Lambert’s play is a physical representation of the context of officiated violence from which writer Ghazi Hussein created poems in response to his political persecution. In the production all three men are white and speak with southern English accents. Particulars of race and state are irrelevant in this play, for although the poetry of defiance belongs to Hussein, the rituals of methodical brutality are humanity’s.
For the next hour Badac choreographs for us an intense and convincing demonstration of the cyclical grind of psychological and physical torment thousands have undergone. Although we see the action from the free side of the cage’s proscenium, we too must gird ourselves to endure. The audience witnesses the rounds of abuse to which the action continually returns – which is, of course, the essential horror of institutional torture; the inevitability of repetition. Soon one’s ears are ringing with the jangle of metal fences repeatedly struck, eyes smarting in the fluorescent light and stomach shrinking from yet another bout of water boarding.
The rhythmic refrain of aggression, verbal and bodily, encases Hussein’s poetry of defiance. It alternates interminably with his cry to our humanity from beyond the wire; cruelly interrupting his lyrical fantasies, his fragile but vital bond to his family, identity and hope. The torturers percussion of blows act an ugly response to the melodic beauty of his crafted words.
But it is a great pity that some of the poetry, which is at times gloriously warm even in a room which the rising sun cannot heat, is lost in the gasping breath, emotion and accent of the actor. For it is to the words that we must cling to find more than a highly realistic recreation of torture in this theatre experience. We seek out their colour and fragrance in the pungent crashing violence which encircles them as it does their speaker.
Perhaps the most gruesome part of this theatrical experience comes in those few moments of quiet, when noises insinuate in from outside; sounds of people in the Cowgate beer gardens enjoying the summer evening. For it is a reminder that we, like them, shall be continuing our lives – whilst somewhere in our world people who look and walk like us dance this grim dance in some other strip-lit room. Rooms from which The Cry may never reach beyond.