Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Review: Don't Shoot the Clowns, Brian Friel Theatre, Belfast

Tears behind the greasepaint as lesson in liberty is learned

Jo Wilding's astounding story is brought to life in the Brian Friel Theatre, where we watch the founder member of Sussex Students Against Sanctions evolve from throwing soft fruit at the prime minister (‘Smiler In Chief’) to catching circus fever and learning to walk on stilts in the name of peace.

A cast of five retell this story of war and peace with matter-of-fact confidence, as though explaining to friends how they'd spent last weekend.

J’s plan to get rid of a dodgy date led her to a university talk on Iraq, where she learned the effect UN sanctions were having on children there. A visit to the country shortly before the war politicised her still further and she decided to take her own form of aid to children there.

Fuel Theatre Company employs little in the way of scenery — a huge, blood-red backdrop, a box of tricks, a laptop, and a lot of imagination — to conjure up life in Baghdad, where J and her Circus 2 Iraq headed in the hope they could rekindle a little joy in people’s lives.

We hear tales of torture and terror in Saddam’s badlands. There’s a vivid description of the night the war began, when J describes looking out at the beautiful city of Baghdad as bombs fall.

Word pictures like this are powerful, but they don’t make for thrilling theatre. But after the interval the passion behind the words grows more urgent, and translate into action. J learns what it is to lose her liberty, as she helps the children of Iraq find some of theirs.

Grania McFadden

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