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Last Updated: Friday, 18 August 2006, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Review: Girl Blog from Iraq
By Charles Pamment
BBC News, Edinburgh

Girl Blog from Iraq
The play is staged by a theatre company from New York
Rarely out of the news, the coalition forces' presence in Iraq has been the subject of much controversy and political debate over the past three years.

Girl Blog from Iraq: Baghdad Burning is based on a blog written by 'Riverbend', a 25-year-old Iraqi woman living in Baghdad prior, during and after the invasion. It is dramatised by a cast of five young American actors.

It takes a few minutes to acclimatise to the style of the play. A time-line narrator walks through the audience interjecting with the actors on stage, reading out the dates of each diary entry and describing the events of conflict that happened on that particular day.

But the spectator quickly begins to focus on the events and experiences of a country decimated by conflict and descending into civil war.

The portrayal of Baghdad before and after the US invasion takes centre stage, with quotes from Western media entwined with extracts from the blog and the horrifying statistics of war.

Character facets

Each actor brings out different areas of Riverbend's character. One emphasises her love for Iraqi culture, another, her awareness of the struggle women face from religious fundamentalists.

The play poignantly describes the changes to everyday life in Iraq since the invasion: the reluctance to leave the house, the stench of death on the streets and the heartstopping fear of another car bomb attack in the city.

Moving accounts of abductions are interjected with concern for the US soldier pounding the streets of an alien land with the threat of death at every corner.

But the concern for the Americans is short-lived. As friends and family die, the blog's emphasis turns to anger.

The play identifies the rise of fundamentalism as a consequence of the invasion itself, suggesting that before the conflict these small groups were not supported by ordinary Iraqis.

Instead of heralding a new life of democracy and post-Saddam freedom, the invasion and subsequent 'occupation' has simply awakened a growing band of fundamentalists, according to Riverbend. With this the "seeds of civil war are being sown".

Girl Blog from Iraq (credit: Ian Stirling)
Four women and a man portray the voice of blogger Riverbend

An emotive reference to the lack of 'weapons of mass destruction' suggests that there is more of a threat now to the West than there was before the invasion.

There is also a constant emphasis on the ordinary Iraqi, their respect for other cultures, religions. An insistence that hatred of the war does not for a moment mean that they dislike Americans or their Western allies.

This gripping piece of theatre presents a personal reflection on the current situation in Iraq, one that is seldom presented in the Western media.

The digital age also makes the performance chillingly up-to-date. Included in the play is a line from her most recent blog "from a city where no-one knows if they will see another day".

It is humbling to write this review from a city where such threats remain simply on the stage.

Girl Blog from Iraq: Baghdad Burning, Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 August


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