Reviewed by Tony Peters
During 2011, Theatre Témoin artistic director Ailin Conant travelled extensively in Israel, Kashmir, Lebanon and Rwanda speaking to ex-soldiers about the trauma of war and the difficulty of returning to civilian life while carrying the emotional burden of what they’d witnessed and acts they themselves had perpetrated.
Julia Pascal’s sometimes harrowing play is drawn from these interviews and forms the final part of what has become known as The Return Project.
Taking her inspiration from a story told by a child soldier in Rwanda, Pascal sets her action in the belly of a giant fish where three soldiers from different countries have become stranded.
They argue, mock each other and reflect on their lives and on God. In what is a typical demonstration of macho posturing, one of their number, Joel (Yaron Shavit), becomes the main butt of their hostility.
While it’s initially intriguing on what brought them to this place and time, their constant bickering soon becomes tiresome and as a result I felt little sympathy for them; either for what they’d seen or the violence they’d been forced to carry out in someone else’s name. Rather than take a more benevolent view of the world after what they’d witnessed, they came across as selfish and arrogant.
A new dimension is given to the story with the arrival of Chance (Jaohn Kamau) who brings with him some harrowing tales of conflict, but by then it was too late for these three to win me over.
There are some effective and nicely choreographed moments of physical theatre, but ultimately the actors’ failure to connect with me emotionally diluted what is certainly a potent message.
This failure to engage was probably best demonstrated by a very annoying woman in front of me who texted for pretty much the whole of the performance. Nineveh isn’t the best play I’ve seen this year, but no actor deserves such appalling disrespect to their craft and it really is time that theatres took a tougher approach to these self-centred people.
Nineveh was written by Julia Pascal and directed by Ailin Conant. It plays at the Riverside Studios until 12th May. For tickets and more information click here