The Waterworks Company presents Judith Thompson's Palace of the End, playing at Espace 4001 from March 14th to 24th. Directed by Rob Langford, the cast includes Sarah Marchand (the Soldier), Michael Findlay (Dr. David Kelly), and Alexandra Valassis (Nehrjas Al-Saffarh).
March 2013 marks 10 years since the invasion of Iraq by US and British forces. Palace of the End is award-winning Canadian playwright Judith Thompson's triptych of short solo plays exploring the tragedy of the Iraq War. Judith Thompson (The Crackwalker, I Am Yours, Lion in the Streets, Perfect Pie) is one of Canada's boldest and best-known playwrights, whose trademark is to unflinchingly expose the shadow side of her characters' souls. In Palace of the End, Thompson audaciously imagines the lost words and thoughts of three participants in the agony of modern Iraq.
Director Rob Langford comments on why this play, and why now, "I've always admirEd Thompson's courage as a writer. But even then, when I heard about this play, where she imagines these real-life figures, I thought, 'How dare she!' Then, when I re-read the play a year ago, I realized that it is so much more than a protest play. It's outside of time. One character is alive and young, one is dying, and one is long-dead. But their choices, the consequences of what they did and said, never fade. Judith Thompson brings these lost people back one last time to tell us, 'we're gone, we don't matter anymore- but you are still alive, you have choices to make... so don't blow it.' It's a good time to repeat the message, 10 years on."
The triptych opens with 'My Pyramids', inspired by the freakish rise to fame of Abu Ghraib prison guard Pvt. Lynndie England. A brutal and brutalized young soldier (Sarah Marchand) struggles to make herself heard in the face of a media feeding-frenzy. Says actor Marchand, "What makes Judith Thompson's writing so unique is that, while you can't sympathize with England's actions, the audience gets an insight into what led to them... Can someone ever be redeemed for their actions? How much can we rely on the authenticity of media reports? I hope this piece will challenge people to dig deeper into what is 'truth'".
In the elegiac 'Harrowdown Hill', Thompson imagines the last testament of weapons inspector Dr. David Kelly (Michael Findlay) as he lies dying, after throwing away his career and reputation to warn the world that the case for war was a lie. Says Findlay, "In this age of anti-heroes where truth is relative, for DR. Kelly it's his driving force. It encompasses his whole being. It's almost as if the truth is his companion throughout this entire monologue; his co-star if you will."
Finally, in 'Instruments of Yearning', the play takes us deep inside Saddam's reign of terror. Nehrjas Al-Saffarh (Alexandra Valassis) is an Iraqi dissident and a survivor of Saddam's prisons. As she loses her family one by one to the regime's torturers and murderers, she hopes against hope that somewhere, sometime, some change will bring a better life to her country. Valassis talks about this challenging role, "It's very hard not to get wrapped up in the unimaginable horrors that happened to Nehrjas and her family. As an artist you have to try to go beyond that and bring the audience along on the journey with you. It's not just a story about pain; it's also about compassion in all its forms."
The production team includes lighting designer Andrés MacLeod, costume designer Tracey Houston, original music by Virgil Rockford and production and stage manager Béata Groves.
Palace of the End, presented by The Waterworks Company at Espace 4001, 4001 Berri (near Duluth), plays eight performances only, March 14 - 24: Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm. Advance tickets are available online at www.waterworksmontreal.wordpress.com. Tickets are $15 + $1.89 transaction fee Tickets at the door are cash only. Sunday, March 17th matinee is 2-for-1 to encourage word-of-mouth.