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Last Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Iraqi woman's blog adapted for stage
Iraq internet cafe
Riverbend has been writing her blog for three years
Baghdad Burning, an anonymous blog written by a young woman in Iraq, has been turned into a play.

For the last three years, the 25-year-old, who calls herself Riverbend, has been writing a daily internet account about life in Baghdad.

She speaks of her love for Iraq and its people, the devastation and conflict, as well as her fears as extremists appear to gain the upper hand.

The adaptation is being performed at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The play is staged by the Six Figures Theatre Company from New York, using five actors playing different aspects of the woman's character.

Director Kimberley Kefgen, who co-adapted Baghdad Burning, said they tried to be faithful to the spirit of the internet diary.

"It's a story that wasn't being heard," she told the BBC World Service's The Ticket programme.

"One of the things we were really interested in was bringing alive voices that weren't being heard in other ways."

[Riverbend] said she was thrilled that it was happening and she wished us all the luck
Kimberley Kefgen, director

She said there were many challenges to adapting a piece of work that was not written to be performed on stage.

"I think the intention that drives someone to blog, especially in a situation like the one that Riverbend is in, is very similar to the sort of intention and urgency that we look for characters to have on stage.

"That's what made us think that this would work."

One of the five actors - made up of four women and a man - is Heather, who has family in Iraq.

"I know a lot about the personal cost and issues," she said.

She added that media coverage of the hardship in Iraq has led to a degree of apathy among the wider public.

"The interesting thing about theatre is that it creates an artistic and somewhat more spiritual journey for an audience," she said. "It's not just news coverage."

There is a passage in the play where Riverbend describes her anger about the uprooting of palm trees by American forces, invoking the trees' significance in Iraqi culture.

Humanity

Heather said: "For some reason, Western eyes and ears can almost sympathise more with a palm tree being cut down than they can with yet another body which is a shame - absolutely.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Blogs are taking centre stage at this year's Festival Fringe

"But it's the gift of theatre that is allowing the humanity to be reached."

Director Kefgen said a variety of material was selected from the blog but there were several main threads.

"You see the life of Riverbend as a young, educated working woman and what that journey has become in the last three years in Iraq," she said.

"Although she is completely anti-occupation, she never loses her humanity; she has never lost her need to balance things."

The play was written without Riverbend's contribution but Kefgen said she has given her blessing to the production.

"We were really uncomfortable without her blessing," she said. "So I emailed her a final time the night before we opened.

"She emailed back the next day. She said she was thrilled that it was happening and she wished us all the luck. She really gave us a great deal of support."


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