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A CurtainUp London Review
Palace of the End
by Tim Newns
We are presented with three monologues. The first from a character named only as 'soldier' but who is very much based on Lynndie England (the American soldier famously caught on tape torturing Iraq prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison). The second monologue is a proposed account of the final few hours of Dr David Kelly's death in Harrowdown Hill and the third monologue is from Nehrjas, a mother from Iraq recounting what life was like under Sadam.
Jade Williams, Robin Soans and Imogen Smith play the characters respectively. Williams plays 'soldier' with a strong American accent that doesn't quite maintain its hold throughout her monologue but her characterisation of a patriotic soldier with a rather distorted view of the awful events that happened in Abu Ghraib is commendable. Williams manages to both humour and offend the audience with troubling efficiency.
Robin Soans has a rather disturbing physical similarity to Kelly and is exceedingly engaging. In the most real and convincing monologue, we play witness to Kelly's last few hours as he contemplates his actions both in his position of 'Government Weapons Inspector' and also his decision to share secret information with the BBC. This is a man staring death in the face and Soans plays him with the necessary dismay and solitude.
Nehrjas is a lady who has severely suffered under the hands of Sadam's secret police. We are told about an event that led to the torture of herself and two of her sons and the eventual death of several members of her family. Imogen Smith is remarkably convincing as a grief stricken yet oddly poised mother. The grace and fervour that Smith brings to the role is excellent and with being the final monologue does well to maintain the audience's focus throughout.
Judith Thompson's play does put you in a common dilemma. It firmly challenges your view of the Iraq war and the monologues are in such an order that cleverly leave you feeling rather unsure with your own opinions. As although the events of Abu Ghraib were indeed diabolical, we remember life for the Iraqi people who fought for freedom and democracy was also intolerable under Sadam . . .