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A CurtainUp London Review
The Time of Our Lies

"We need to stop spending money . . . to kill people we don't know, for reasons we don't understand ."
— Howard Zinn
The Time of Our Lies
Anais Lone
(Photo: Tomas Turpie)
Bianca Bagatourian has written this new play based on the works of Howard Zinn whom she worked with just before his passing in 2010. He was knocked unconscious by mounted police when he was on a peaceful demonstration at a political rally in Times Square as a young man. This experience changed his attitude about how society should be changed to be more egalitarian, co-operative and peaceful. He later joined the US Air Force and flew bombing missions in the Second World War; these experiences confirming his anti-war views.

The play begins and ends with a single soldier dressed in camouflage uniform bathed by a single red light on a darkened stage; we hear the sounds of what must be gun fire and see him, having been shot, writhing in his death throes.

The Time of Our Lies is primarily told by the 75-year-old American bomb aimer Howard Zinn (Martina Laird) as he attempts to come to terms with the destruction that he and his colleagues have wreaked on civilians during his time in the Second World War. The play then expands to detail further instances of the euphemistic expression collateral damage, the killing of defenceless and innocent civilians, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.

Howard Zinn was a professor, historian, author and activist; his life's work focused on issues of race, class war and history and the effect that it had on the lives of countless people. This is an anti war play and not just focused on one pivotal instance that Zinn is scarred with — the bombing of Royan in Western France, where 1,700 French civilians were killed just four months before the German surrender. It is an old man telling the stories of his experiences and reflecting on that which he has lived through and how it changed his life. It then became his work to be such an ardent protester on behalf of the innocents of war with his plea to study history and listen to its lessons.

Although a densely wordy piece, The Time of Our Lies is delivered by the mostly female ensemble with clarity in speech and song, aided of course by Ché Walker's fluid direction. Somehow in just 65 minutes we are reminded that despite the writings of pacifists like Howard Zinn, war continues. Whilst he wasn't flying in Japan, in later years Zinn visits Hiroshima to talk to a disabled survivor and is at a loss for words when faced with someone terribly mutilated, a victim of the nuclear bomb.

On press night Daniel Benzali was indisposed and Martina Laird took over at 24 hours notice. Despite the challenges of playing a septuagenarian Brooklynite at such short notice and armed with a script, she brought great emotional depth to Zinn's words.

There are of course no easy answers and Zinn's anti-war polemic doesn't have all of them.

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The Time of Our Lies
Written by Bianca Bagatourian
Directed by Ch&eacut: Walker
Starring: Martina Laird
With: Alvaro Flores, Lanna Joffrey, Trang Le, Claire Lebowitz King, Anais Lone, Jessye Romeo
Lighting Design: Arnim Freiss
Composer: Sheila Atim
Choreographer: Bonnie Oddie
Video Composer: Gamal Chasten
Video Choreographer: Maureen Fleming
Running time: 65 minutes with no interval
Box Office: 020 7870 6876
Booking to 10th August 2019
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 1st August 2019 evening performance at The Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP(Tube: Finsbury Park)
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