This clichd pronouncement on the origins of conflict, taken from this new play by Tamsin Oglesby, was all too apt considering that the shoddy script and hammy acting left me so bored that I contemplated impaling myself on my biro.
It is rare to see a play that is this bad in so many ways. But such is the nature of Oglesby’s black comedy, which is currently playing at the usually exemplary Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn.
The War Next Door is the account of what Sophie and Max, a thoroughly well-to-do liberal British couple, do when they find out that their Middle Eastern neighbour, Ali, is beating his pregnant wife, Hana.
As written, its essentially a metaphor for the Wests intervention in Iraq to prevent Saddam Husseins tyranny, asking whether you should follow your moral code regardless of the consequences, or just stand back and do nothing?
Should we or shouldnt we have gone to war with Iraq? That’s a big question, one that will be batted back and forth in political slinging matches and in comment pages for eternity, and one that deserves serious contemplation. It should not be tackled via the medium of the rhyming couplet. However this is exactly what Oglesby has decided to do.
The dumbfounding switch to verse, when tension in the production reaches fever pitch, was incredibly unwise. Even a GCSE English student wouldn’t think it was a smart idea to attempt to comment on domestic violence, and by extension the Iraq war via a sing-songy metre and a clumsy rhyme scheme (at one point she rhymes ‘heinous’ with ‘penis’, yes really).
The script was trite, the acting cringe-worthy and any passion that the cast could have potentially released into the dialogue was restricted by this totally ill-judged use of verse. All this served to turn what could have been an opportunity for some serious rumination on the liberal mind-set into an absurd comic farce of epic proportions, one staffed by a cadre of caricatures.
The War Next Door was an execrable piece of theatre, one of the worst things I suspect I’ll see all year, and a master class in how not to write for the stage.