Theatre review: Rendition Monologues/Poverty Monologues





IN MOST western countries, we take for granted the existence of some kind of rule of law, however flawed. But to those who, since 2001, have fallen victim to the system of "extraordinary rendition" operated by many western powers and their allies, it often seems as though they have slipped through the safety net of basic civil rights into a strange transnational limbo; a lawless global no man's land which has no way of correcting its errors, and no mechanism for dealing justly and decently with those who fall under suspicion.

Rendition Monologues, playing at St John's Church this week – and also part of the Edinburgh Festival of Spirituality & Peace – hardly constitutes a play. The show, staged by human rights specialists Iceandfire Theatre, simply presents four verbatim testimonials by men – including the British resident Binyam Mohammed, held for more than four years at Guantanamo Bay – who have fallen foul of this global system of kidnap, forced transportation, interrogation and frequent torture.

But the content of their stories is enough to shame everyone involved in operating or condoning a system which exists purely to facilitate illegal forms of prisoner abuse.

The show features a beautiful original score by composer and pianist Michael Edwards, played by himself and cellist Jeremy Tiang, and five striking performances, notably from Ery Nzaramba as Binyam Mohammed; and if the Fringe is partly about giving a voice to those who struggle to make themselves heard, then this show fulfils that purpose with impressive force and integrity.

Platform 2's Poverty Monologues, completing a short run at Venue 45, also seeks to highlight global injustice, through a series of monologues performed and mostly written by eight young people who have been involved in anti-poverty projects in Ghana, South Africa, India and Peru.

The content of the show is often fresh and thought-provoking, from the little girl watching the bulldozing of her South African township to the fears of an Indian mother with a disabled son. But the format is finally too bitty and cabaret-like to do justice to the seriousness of the material – as if the company were trying to tell the story of a great global tragedy in the form of a lightweight student sketch-show.


Rendition Monologues until tomorrow, today 4pm; Poverty Monologues until today, 6:30pm.