Do you “make bombs and movies”? a young Iraqi man patrolling the landscape asks. Yes? “Congratulations,” he proclaims, “You are a part of a first-world country.” He’s talking to his friend about who is best placed to tell the story of the people of Basra: Iran is the somewhat surprising conclusion; they are simply better at filmmaking, he shrugs.
Bride Of The Gulf, C Cubed (Venue 50) ****
US Writer (and former soldier in Iraq) JM Meyer’s collaboration with Iraqi poet Elham Al-Zabaedy and composer Qais Ouda is full of such surprising contradictions, as it charts the history of two wars in Iraq, as well their aftermath, from the perspective of the people of Basra – its voice, full of humour, poetry and humanity, distinctively different from that of many Western dramas exploring the same subject.
Through a production that travels fluidly between the stage and the audience, it weaves its world around us, before zooming in on a woman searching for her missing husband, with the help of her mother-in-law.
A tragedy has occurred, one no less unjust because it’s one of many others – and which, against a rich repertoire of cultural references, tests the resolve of the two women, played with heart, humour and inner strength by Karen Alvarado and Monica Vilela.
The clinical bureaucracy of the morgue captures the cold brutality of the killing, whether it’s being carried out by US troops or Islamic militants, while evocative projected imagery and traditional music builds an immersive tapestry of a fascinating place where the years pass like bombs fall.
What is the future? An Iranian skyscraper is being built called The Bride of the Gulf. Commerce, it seems, has moved in as the soldiers moved out, leaving Basra a transformed place, but one that still maintains a defiant and optimistic spirit, one that this play allows us, as a Western audience, a rare opportunity to share.
• Until 27 August, 3:10pm