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Steven Berkoff in Requiem For Ground Zero

Drams 2
Venue Assembly Rooms
Address 54 George Street
Reviewer Daniel Winterstein

How is Art to respond to the terrorist attack of September 11th? How is anyone? Because there must be responses; the impact of the tragedy demands it. This question is especially important to theatre. When the world changes, theatre reacts faster - and perhaps more democratically - than film or books. Hence this year's festival has half a dozen shows dealing with the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. Not surprisingly, most are by American companies, but Requiem For Ground Zero is a late addition to the programme by British actor/writer/director Steven Berkoff.

It is in the form of a long poem delivered by Berkoff alone, chronologically charting the days' events. It's powerful emotive material. Berkoff laces it with a subtle dark humour, which works to heighten the emotional content. His performance is mesmerising throughout. Larger than life, he moves and speaks with a virtuoso feel for gesture and rhythm.

Unfortunately though, the poem itself is too simplistic to work well. Much of its imagery is obvious; almost cliched. There is very little insight or understanding here, either of the world that produced the disaster, or of the people caught up in it. The characters are two-dimensional: Evil Villains, Innocent Victims and Brave Heroes, rather than real people. The dead were real people, they were more than just Innocent Victims and Brave Heroes.

The effect of this simplification is to keep the tragedy at arms length. Requiem tries to take us inside the hijacked planes and the burning towers, with the aim of producing a moving elegy to the dead. Instead it only recreates the feeling of being a horrified spectator on September 11th. Berkoff is a brilliant performer, but on this occasion his material is too weak. The end though - a moving call for the West to show understanding - is an important message.

6pm, runs until 26th August, except 19th.
© Daniel Winterstein, 18th August 2002.


© Daniel Winterstein 1998-2008

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