[THEATRE ~ SA]
Little Theatre, The Cloisters, University Of Adelaide, Thu 14 May.
Presented by Adelaide University Theatre Guild
The Iraq war was a descent into madness – a war based on fabricated evidence of weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. The absurdly named Coalition Of The Willing, Australia amongst them, waded into a war that created a hell that helped unleash Al-Quaeda, the Islamic state, and a host of other miseries upon the Iraqi people. It is in this hell that Rajiv Joseph sets his award-winning play. We view events through the eyes of American soldiers, Iraqi civilians, the son of Saddam Hussein, and the ghost of a tiger that has escaped the Baghdad zoo.
The dialogue is laced with dark humour as we watch the soldiers lose their sanity, limbs and the crass souvenirs of war that they hold dear. The military presence brings nothing but misery to Iraqi civilians. Musa, a local Iraqi gardener played by Nigel Tripodi, initially tries to gain from employment as an interpreter but ultimately despairs at the foreigners’ stupidity and lack of sensitivity towards their customs and culture.
The play’s telling irony is that the most intelligent and aware character in the play is an animal’s ghost. Only he, played with great presence by David Grybowski (looking suspiciously like a crazy Spike Milligan) sees the pathos and tragedy of innocent lives being lost as a city burns, the layers of sadness, and the pointlessness of the conflict.
Oliver de Rohan effectively portrays marine Kev’s personal descent into madness. His soldier mate Tom (Adam Tuominen) is played with just the right amount of bluster and bravado befitting the stereotypical profile of an American Marine before he too is forced to face his own fallibility staring into the eyes of a leper.
Multiple short scenes keep the pacing lively. Carefully chosen musical interludes between scenes reinforce the growing sense of futility. The set and staging is visually engaging and everyone is close to the action within the Little Theatre.
While the take home message of this production may be on the bleak side, the play itself is entertaining and a touch eccentric. It’s a good combination supported by a strong cast, an impressive set, and enlightened direction by Nick Fagan.
Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo continues at Little Theatre, The Cloisters, University of Adelaide, at various times until, until Sat 22 May.
Bookings at adelaide.edu.au/theatreguild. Click HERE to purchase tickets.