Shrapnel: 34 Fragments of a Massacre – Arcola Theatre, until 02 April 2015 (tickets
That we should be angry about the Roboski massacre should go without saying. Any act in a war that leads to 34 civilians being killed is an act that should lead to outcry and public condemnation. These are statements that it is difficult to disagree with, and it is certainly the viewpoint of Anders Lustgarten – one of the most overtly political playwrights working in a city whose theatre is often criticised for cleaving to closely to middle class sentiments for middle class audiences.
Lustgarten should be applauded for his internationalist outlook. He has avoided more obvious events and has focussed on one tragic story that is difficult to shape within our traditional western media narratives about the war on terror. To fully understand the events at Roboski it is necessary to have a reasonable grasp of the history of the Kurdish people and their relationship with the Turkish state. Whilst it perhaps isn’t essential, it would also be useful to be aware of the PKK and the long-battle that the Kurds have had across the middle-east to avoid persecution in their adoptive homelands.
It is quite clear Lustgarten knows what he is talking about, and that he has deeply held beliefs about it. The fact the programme notes he has been arrested by the Turkish secret police provides certain validity to the idea that in writing this play he has been speaking truth to power.
Performances were excellent from across the ensemble cast and weighted with a powerful emotional charge; Aslam Percival Husain and Karina Fernandez in their roles as Kurdish villagers describing the fates that have befallen their kith and kin displayed an almost unwatchable dignity and honour in the face of tragedy.
They were supported by staging that made a striking contrast between the flashy, technological toys of those with the political, military and financial might and a sparseness that fit with desolate mountain lands that the Kurdish people called their home.