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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 August, 2005, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Fringe review: Manifest Destiny
By Charles Pamment
BBC News website

Manifest Destiny
Manifest Destiny could be very rewarding

Manifest Destiny, an opera about suicide bombers, has the potential to be a hard-hitting, provocative piece of work, but ultimately the production does not induce rousing emotion.

The synopsis reads well: a Jewish composer, Daniel, is parted from his Palestinian lover, Leila, when she joins a cell of suicide bombers in the Middle East.

Here, she meets Mohammed who falls in love with her and, to save her from undertaking her own suicide bombing mission, he informs on her to the authorities.

Mohammed becomes a mole, and is sent undercover to Camp X-Ray, Guatemala Bay, where Leila is being held - with tragic consequences.

The piece touches on some of the key questions that inhabit the minds of the conspiracy theorist, such as CIA involvement in 9/11.

Yet, it fails to develop these into anything more than weak conversation between America's first female president and the director of the CIA, played with a comedy glee by Peter Willcock.

Both the female characters lack weight. The president is portrayed as hopelessly weak-minded.

Leila on the other hand could be such an interesting character - a persuasive but vulnerable suicide bomber. All the male characters fall helplessly in love with her, even the US soldier at Camp X-Ray. But, ultimately one is left with little feeling for her.

An undoubtedly talented and able cast, are let down by a simplistic libretto. With the musical accompaniment courtesy of a solo piano, the score sounds repetitive. However, a larger ensemble might do the composition greater justice.

It is also worth pointing out that the theatre was noisy and open, with staff wandering in and out - certainly not conducive to this show.

But with a little more character development and musical creativity this could be a rewarding 90 minutes of opera.

Manifest Destiny is showing at the Assembly until 29 August.

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