BWW Review: THE TIME OF OUR LIES, Park Theatre
Cancelling a press night is never a decision that's to be taken lightly. Holding a press night with a replacement actor in the main role could be catastrophic. When Daniel Benzali became incapacitated to perform at the opening night of Park Theatre's The Time Of Our Lies, director Ché Walker invited Martina Laird to take his place.
The choice to have a Black actress play Howard Zinn - an ageing American Jewish historian who was also a World War II veteran - turned Bianca Bagatourian's play into an even more acute statement of freedom. Colin Salmon is to take on the role on 2nd August and Benzali is due to reprise it after that. The piece reconciles Zinn's personal history with the state of the world, with the actress (and, one believes, future actors) narrating the ethics of blindly dropping of bombs on innocent people and the hypocrisy of the American government.
Walker is somber in his direction. The social critique grows steadily, building on to become a direct address to modern-day politics: Zinn might end up tackling Bush's despicable war policy, but Alvaro Flores engages in an imitation of Donald Trump (from the pursed lips to the hand movements, he is truly uncanny). The stage is bare, bar a chair and a lectern. The emptiness is filled with words alone while the ensemble reenact the aftermath of brutal responses to non-violent actions.
The playwright (and Zinn himself) reverses historical narratives, highlighting how the different perspective is crucial to understand the real impact of history. Sheila Atim's steady sound design accompanies the examination, unobtrusive but accenting in its purpose. Laird conceals a passionate vein in her melancholic look at the veteran's life purposes. She lights up with specific delivery as she lectures the crowd on the importance of questioning political events in order to see what lies beneath them.
The fervent investigation of military capitalism and racism has clearer resonance with Walker's accidental opening company. The ensemble alone sees an international assembly of diverse talent, but having Laird as the captain of the ship tips the scales and reinforces the message. The show might come off dramatically different from the 3rd of August but as the material was nominated for Amnesty International "Freedom of Expression" Award in 2014, one hopes that the core of it will remain solid in its reception.
The Time Of Our Lies presents a sharp look on how democracy has been used as an excuse to perpetrate atrocious acts throughout history. Bagatourian's dramatisation is poignant and accessible, it starts a conversation and suggests that a reflection on a larger scale is in order to analyse the governmental force-feeding of the unequivocal titular lies.
Photo credit: Tomas Turpie