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War Correspondents

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Writer-composer Helen Chadwick has a penchant for teasing stage material from live interviews, worked into haunting lyrics, as previously seen in her Dalston Songs, performed at the ROH’s Linbury Studio.

Here, five actor-singers are onstage, backed up by extensive though not always fully audible recorded interviews with journalists who have witnessed hell, have a harrowing tale to tell: Beslan, Dagestan, Helmand – enough to make you shiver. The interviews conjure up a picture of not just the daily perils endured, but the moving dilemmas journalists face: Do I help an injured victim? How do I avoid taking sides? Should I photograph the faces of grieving relatives?

The lyrics and some of the anecdotes are powerful, although only latterly does an almost comic tale from Bosnia suggests how much punchier, more surprising and arresting this show might have been.

Visually it’s a mite dull, though saved by the ensemble’s vocals, especially the sensitive bass, Michael Mears, who has a strong input and one particularly poignant solo. Scenographer Miriam Nabarro’s simple set evokes the bored routine of filing to deadlines, but no visuals suggest the jangled confusion of war – the fieldwork and news-gathering amid life-threatened ordinary people and once-beautiful communities.

So a worthy effort; but only a so-so experience.

Roderic Dunnett

  • The Rep, Birmingham
  • April 24-26, then touring to October 25
  • Author/composer: Helen Chadwick
  • Directors: Steven Hoggett, Helen Chadwick
  • Producer: Helen Chadwick Song Theatre
  • Cast includes: James Lailey, Michael Mears, Oliver Senton, Rebecca Thorn, Helen Chadwick
  • Running Time: 1hr 25mins
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