Friday Five: The Abbey’s Theatre of War

The Abbey have started putting the Theatre of War sessions online. Here are my top five talks/panels/sessions from the three days. It’s was difficult to choose only five because the symposium was full of interesting things. I’ve cheated a little bit because Day 3 hasn’t gone online yet. If it was, I would have had to include Marina Carr’s talk Art, Beauty, War about the women in Greek plays. The talks are about an hour long, the panels are closer to an hour and a half.

1. David Cotterrell, Subjective Documentary. David was commissioned by the Wellcome Trust as a war artist and sent out to capture the war in Afghanistan. His talk covers information about how the public perception of the war is managed, and how difficult (if not impossible) it is to prepare for the horrors of war. And this was in a war hospital/camp, rather than a conflict zone. It is a terrifying insight into those unseen areas and very interesting to hear it from a non-military person.

2. Patrick Cockburn talked about The Rise of the Islamic State and the situation in the Middle East. I found it fascinating to hear someone speaking so knowledgeably about a subject that I only have small, scattered chunks of information about, but very little understanding. It seems like Islamic State have appeared out of nowhere, but Cockburn described how it was really not a complete surprise. It was bubbling for a long time.

3. Artistic Response to Conflict and War. There were so many interesting people on this panel, it’s definitely worth a watch. John Scott talks about his work with survivors of torture, people who have come to Dublin. Hope Azeda talked about making theatre Rwanda and was so incredibly enthusiastic and inspiring! Dijana Milosevic speaks about DAC theatre in Belgrade and Naomi Wallace and Ismail Karim Khalidi read from her play One Short Sleepe.

4. Barriers: Responses and Reactions to Walls, Barriers and Boundaries was a panel discussion that talked about walls and barriers in Belfast and Palestine. (There’s also a great talk on how Palestine is fragmented by Ray Dolphin, if you are interested – The Fragmentation of Palestine)

5. War Correspondents was a performance from Helen Chadwick Song Theatre and it was a lovely way to end the second day. Helen interviewed war correspondents and put those interviews to song. Again, it’s a great insight into the lives and work of those people but it’s also a simple and beautiful performance piece. The songs will stick in your head! It’s not a full performance, more a taste of what the show is like.

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