“It’s not a war, it’s a massacre.” Zoe Lafferty’s verbatim production, a compilation of stories from the people of Syria, is designed to cut deep. It puts a human face on the current and still evolving crisis. A selection of interviews, collected by Lafferty and the journalists, Ruth Sherlock and Paul Wood, have been edited together to create a hard-hitting, upsetting and informative production, albeit one far from free of the problematic nature of verbatim theatre as a form.
Sirine Saba (Tifaha) in The Fear Of Breathing at the Finborough Theatre, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
We hear from student activists, a young DJ, a hotel owner who hasn’t done too badly under Assad’s regime and an English photographer who was injured in the blast that killed Marie Colvin. The first part of the production illustrates how important social media has been as a revolutionary tool, a means of connecting people under an oppressive regime. There’s a sense of optimism and hope intermingled with anger as the activists discuss their cause. But as the situation escalates and the violence intensifies, the production becomes more targeted in its anger. A grieving mother’s distress turns to rage: “I have the courage to hold a gun and kill.” There are times when it can feel heavy-handed - the re-enactments of scenes of torture are, for example, often less potent than the spoken sections - but as a call to action, a plea to the audience, it’s an incredibly powerful piece.