REVIEW: Theatreworks Presents PALACE OF THE END

Gritty and gripping tales of war

By Myron My

Written by Judith Thompson, Palace of the End is a touching and eye-opening look at war in Iraq and its devastating impact through three monologues that are inspired by real stories of people who have been damaged by the everlasting effects of war.

It’s a unique set design at Theatreworks: the stage is constructed into a narrow ten seat wide performance area, creating an intimate (if not claustrophobic) environment, which allows these monologues to reach us to more dramatic level. Furthermore, each performer is given a designated area where their monologue is to take place with minimal props that are simply but effectively used to create the scene.

Eugenia Fragos as Nehrjas al Saffarh - Photo credit Sarah Walker

Some interesting direction by Daniel Clarke had the actors on stage from the very beginning, remaining static in their respective environments. Occasional small movements or subtle reactions to what someone else was saying were made thhroughout, reminding us that even though these three people never met, their lives are very much intertwined and affected by this war.

As an audience member, it could be quite difficult to watch three half-hour monologues and remain engaged, but the talented cast are more than able to convincingly draw us into their world. Hannah Norris plays A Soldier, a character inspired by Lynndie England the American soldier who was involved in the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib. The unlikeable and redneck soldier shows no remorse for her actions and sees herself as the all-American hero. Following Norris, and showing a distinctly softer and calming perspective is Robert Meldrum as David Kelly, the British weapons inspector who died upon revealing that the weapons of mass destruction were a lie told to justify the invasion in Iraq.

However, it was Eugenia Fragos as Nehrjas Al Saffarh who really imparts to us the horrors of the war. Married to the leader of the Communist Party in Iraq at the time of the Ba’athist Coup, Saffarh’s story of her and her family’s torture is a harrowing tale and Fragos captures the emotion, trauma and pain she experienced and you will find yourself hanging on her every word.

This  production of Thompson’s Palace of the End has taken a sensitive issue and rather than preaching about whether this war is right or wrong allows the stories to speak for themselves. It challenges our notions of right and wrong and demands that in all war we consider exactly what it is we are fighting for.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda

Season: Until 16 June | Tues- Sat 8:00pm, 15 June 2:00pm & 16 June 5:00pm

Tickets: $32 Full | $25 Conc

Bookings: 9534 3388 or http://www.theatreworks.org.au

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