Review: Talking To Terrorists (Emu Productions)

Venue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), May 23 – Jun 3, 2017
Playwright: Robin Soans
Director: Markus Weber
Cast: Mathew Costin, David D’Silva, Kira Fort, Zuzi Fort, Tiffany Joy, Alyson Standen, Kyle Stewart, Joseph JU Taylor, Markus Weber
Image by John Keenan

Theatre review
Robin Soans’ Talking To Terrorists premiered in England just 3 months before the London bombings of 2005. Disasters seemed to strike like never before, and we tried desperately to understand the rapidly changing world, post-9/11. The play investigates the psyche of those touched by horrific events, from perpetrators, to hostages and politicians. Composed largely of interviews with people who had experienced those states of trauma, this work of verbatim theatre opens up discussion about the most pertinent of subjects today. We examine the motivating factors behind these unimaginable atrocities, and in the process of seeing extremists as people, we gain knowledge that had been previously hidden. Humanising evil allows us to gain insight into what was once beyond comprehension.

A wide range of personalities take to the stage, but the production does not always make clear, the identities of all its characters. The confusion that arises does not help the show’s cause. The actors offer glimpses of poignancy, but can be impeded by their emphasis on creating cosmetic impressions, rather than always finding resonance through the very meanings of what they say. Actor Alyson Standen is the most consistent of the group, demonstrating conviction in all of her four roles, and through her enactment of emotional accuracy, we are able to access the truths in what her scenes attempt to communicate. There is no lack of passion in the cast, but their approach requires more detail, and greater nuance, so that we obtain something richer, a result that feels less surface.

As long as we regard terrorists as animals and monsters, we will never be able to convince them of our perspectives. If we can only think of them as absolute enemies, we will never be able to convert them to our way of life. When people are shut out, excluded and ostracised from our existence, then our security means nothing to them. Terrorists will continue to cause us harm, if they know nothing of us. In humanising the foe, we can both begin to see ourselves in the other, and so it is only in the talking that we can hope for a change.

www.kingstreettheatre.com.au