Published: 12 July, 2012
by GEOFFREY SAWYER
AS we’re warned to brace ourselves for armed police and anti-aircraft missiles against the alleged threat of bombs during the Olympics, it’s sobering to remember murderous explosions are an everyday part of life in war-torn Iraq. Upwards of 100 people are blown-up weekly – getting on for a July 7 bombing every few days.
Yet the news has slipped off our TV screens while Tony Blair bounces back into the political arena.
So Return, a play written and starring TV actress Dina Mousawi (pictured), is a timely reminder of the chaos unleashed by our invasion – not least the last-night performance on July 7.
Based on events surrounding her post-war visit to Baghdad, a city she left as a child, Return is an ingenious play-cum-sketch-show highlighting the effects of the occupation on Iraqi women.
Mousawi, whose mother married an Iraqi and lived in Baghdad in the 1980s, interviewed some fascinating women, from a television presenter scathing of the broken promises made by Blair and Bush, to an optimistic Kurdish woman who drove into Baghdad with the American army.
The cast of five young actresses is surprisingly strong. Mousawi, who has extensive television experience, and the talented Houda Echouafni have the longest CVs, but all play multiple characters with verve. The modern staging and direction, which owes a lot to the excellent Poonam Brah who runs the 3Fates theatre company, is remarkably innovative.
The intriguing family drama behind Mousawi’s trip to Baghdad is brought alive through her frank email exchanges with her mother – highlighted in the most unexpected ways using projections, messages printed on strips of wallpaper and even tattoos – and her frank chats with her brassy Yorkshire grandmother.
At other times members of the audience were given a taste of Baghdad life when they were pulled out and drawn into a confrontation with trigger-happy Iraqi gunmen at a checkpoint.
The trip to Baghdad was clearly an emotional experience for Mousawi, whose play brought some of the audience to tears – timely when so much is being done to whitewash our recent history. The only pity is that it was left to the innovative The Yard Theatre in Hackney to stage this play while billions of pounds and the television cameras are focussed on the nearby Olympic stadiums.