At the beginning of the devising process I was very keen to have a subtext of media manipulation throughout the play; this was achieved through two scenes.
First I wanted to make the ironic point about the hypocrisy of a news report (‘War Spectacular’ by Kate Adie) which compares a missile launch to a fireworks display, and then attempts to convey the reporters concern for the human suffering of mugged refugees. Reciting this piece while playing Holst’s Saturn, an eerie classical track gave the reading a strange poetic nature which a war report really shouldn’t have. This recital was made DSR, whilst a soldier robbed a dead body CS; this abstract staging was used to show the reporters obliviousness to the events which were actually happening around her. With these juxtapositions, the article lost all the sincerity with which it may have be written; showing how easy it is to both overlook the true meaning of news we are being provided with, and how what we are being shown with can never be the full story, and just the observations of one person.
The second scene showing our media subtext was our most complex, both to construct and to perform. Set in a Middle Eastern bar we meet three journalists, Danny Richards, Kate Stevens and Malcolm Grey - Danny and Kate are both shown as rookies and Malcolm the veteran. A number of flashbacks are used throughout the scene as a means of exposition for each of the characters but also showing their different journalistic styles.
Half way through the journalist scene we cut to Kate standing DSR reporting from the aftermath of a missile attack. We see her emotional report which describes a graphic and horrific scene. When her report is finished she asks the cameraman ‘brutal enough?’ - again showing the hypocrisy of the so-called emotionally attached reporter.
Continuing in the bar Malcolm questions Danny’s integrity, calling him a ‘Two-bit rookie’ in response to this the audience is shown an interview between Danny, an interpreter and a woman living in a village which has been raided by American troops. This scene was used to show how drastically information can become. Statements coming from the village woman, through the interpreter and then to Danny are changed ‘Chinese whispers’ style until their meaning has been completely lost. For example, the word ‘Americans’ is changed to ‘military’ and then to ‘militants’. We ensured that it was the interpreter which made the most drastic mistakes, showing that it was not Danny who was at fault, and that this corruption of the truth could happen even to the most professional reporters.
So to contrast this media orientated aspect of war we wanted to show a side of war that has very little understanding to it; the new warfare of fanaticism and blind allegiance. However much research we did for these roles it was always impossible to collect information which was objective as everything that we had collected was opinionated and not factual. With this stigma in mind, I felt that it was important to work with the theme of connection between all human beings which had been established in the opening scene as it would have been easy to just cast the characters in this section as inhuman, and so we worked to show the audience familiarities with these characters that they otherwise would have trouble connecting with. With the child soldier it was the shock of his revealed age which worked to remind the audience that the ‘inhuman’ soldier was still a small boy, and as the audience was made up of students and parents we felt that this would force them to think of children close to them. Similarly, the suicide bomber, whilst fanatical, still showed very human traits. He had thoughts of his family, performed this act because he believed that he was right and ‘just’, and ultimately showed fear.
In contrast to this very new attitude to war we wanted to depict a very old fashioned warfare which looking back on it is now highly comical. The ‘new generation’ of weaponry was presented to the audience in the form of a ‘1950’s style’ advert. The main purpose for this scene was to provide the audience with a comic relief from the seriousness of the play. However, whilst this was an opportunity to relax placing this scene previous to the suicide bomber scene it to show a drastic change in attitude to warfare, whilst the character of the advert believed that that their weapons would drive the empire into the 20th century, the suicide bomber represents a very modern and much more dangerous enemy; one which does not have a flag or country, but just a cause and the will to cause destruction.
The piece was concluded with the recital of the poem, ‘All things are connected’ which we quoted for the opening sequence. With lines such as ‘Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it’ it worked well to convey our themes of unison as a race – although the hope of total peace is a fantasy, it is the theme which ultimately runs throughout the whole of the piece.