Unit 19, West 12 Centre, Shepherds Bush, London
A stone’s thrown down from The Bush theatre stands the West 12 Shopping Centre. Dwarfed by its pushy new arrival, Westfield, Unit 19 West 12 is now playing host to an unlikely nightly bombardment set in motion by the Bush’s enterprising Josie Rourke in collaboration with the National Theatre.
Stovepipe comes with the NT and Bush Theatre’s imprimatur but is produced by HighTide, a newish, well connected producing company, based in London, who hold annual new-writing festivals in Suffolk with the intention of transferring plays on.
Adam Brace’s Stovepipe, first seen at last year’s HighTide festival, is a remarkable piece not least for its obvious access to resources but also for its topical focus on malfunctioning equipment (Stovepipe is apparently a firearms malfunction). A line also shoots out half way through: `Least the IRA didn’t get him.’ So it goes. You write a line years before then history catches up with you.
In its Middle East setting, Brace’s Stovepipe is a bit like David Greig’s Damascus if entirely different in tone and subject. Set in Amman, Jordan, it concerns the rebuilding of Iraq and the private companies and ex-army lads in their pay acting as security guards. Alan and Eddy are two such `soldiers of fortune’. Very laddish. Very macho. Very pummelly with each other. Then something strange happens. Eddy goes missing.
Brace, a onetime journalist, certainly knows his area. Through a small number of characters, he conveys a whole theatre of intrigue whilst abrasive, sardonic language vividly conveys a sense of lives lived on the edge. There is a wonderful scene, for example, between Shaun Dooley’s world-weary Alan and Sargon Yelda’s Iraqi translator of throwaway, darkly comic lines about the English sense of humour, Mr Bean and the Iraq war.
As a promenade, site specific piece, Michael Longhurst’s production sprays us with sights and sounds from the Rebuild Iraq sales conference to the life and death throes of Alan and Eddy on patrol, to murky back-streets, hotel bars and neon-lit briefing rooms.
A Black Watch for the post-war, it’s thunderously well acted by a highly talented team of five. Impressive.
Andre/Grif: Christian Bradley
Alan: Shaun Dooley
Eddy/Harry: Niall MacGregor
Carolyn/Masha/Sally: Eleanor Matsuura
Saad/Marty/Rami: Sargon Yelda
Director: Michael Longhurst
Producers: Samuel Hodges & Steven Jon Atkinson
Dramaturgy: Jack Bradley
Design: takis (there are 27 names down uner Design Team credits)
Lighting: Matt Prentice
Sound: Steve Mayo
Voice: John Tucker
Casting: Joyce Nettles
Assistant Director: Titas Halder
Fight Choreography: Rachel Bown-Williams
Production Manager: Richard Eustace
Stage Manager: Jonathan Goldstone
Construction: Nick Hardwick
Construction Assistant: Jack Brooks
Associate Sound Designer: Luke Swaffield
Stovepipe was first staged as part of HighTide Festival 2008, The Cut, Halesworth, Suffolk on 1st May, 2008
This review first published in Reviewsgate Mar, 2009