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A CurtainUp London Review
The early scene is set in Cuba in 2004 where a US Army medic of Iraqi origin, Riva (Nathalie Armin) is telling Alice (Penny Layden) that she must not leave any more bruises or lacerations on the Muslim prisoner, Pakistani-Canadian Bashir (Anthony Bunsee). Fifteen years later Bashir, dying from liver disease comes to Texas to find his tormentor to demand half her liver in recompense.
Alice now aged 40 has left the army, is working as a florist and has little memory as to what she did in ‘Gitmo’ because of the drugs taken to erase her memory. She was determined not to have the nightmares her father had on his return from Vietnam. Alice is living with her husband, reformed drug user, Lucas (Christian Bradley) and her teenage daughter Rhiannon (Greer Dale-Foulkes). Alice and Lucas tend not to talk about their troubled past lives. Rhiannon is interested, almost obsessive, to find out about her mother's army service and strikes up a friendship with Bashir.
Quite apart from the originality of its theme, Lidless is written in lyrical, rhythmic prose with detailed imagery and metaphor returning to the theme of birds free to fly or caged. There are parallels between the pet goldfish that Rhiannon watches die and the orange fish the Guantanamo detainees were compared to with their orange jump suits and black goggles made out of diving masks taped over to sensorily deprive them. Whereas in Edinburgh, the audience was confined within the white light cage, at the Trafalgar the cast play within a cube of neon tubes which fizz and flicker with the action.
Of the actors, Antony Bunsee is compelling as the troubled ex-detainee and Penny Layden has a cool detachment, a distance she puts between herself and her past life. As her daughter Rhiannon, Greer Dale-Foulkes is a quirky teenager full of contradiction and enquiry.
There are moments when Steven Atkinson's production feels over worked as the director wants to do full justice to Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig's remarkable script but this is a most original play, albeit with an ending which is tidier than the many difficult issues the play raises.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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