Collateral Damage

The programme for Collateral Damage states that, while the play was written in 1999 in response to contemporary issues, it “has many resonances for us today”. Yet this production fails to resonate.

While an intriguing concept, the play is too short to pull off the comparison with any subtlety

It’s Daniel’s 50th birthday, so he and his wife Leonie are preparing for a dinner party. In the other room, a television blares news coverage of the war in Kosovo. The couple, recently over a rocky period in their marriage, begin to argue, with opinions on the war acting as the epicenter of a much larger ideological conflict between the two. By the end, the war and the relationship are shown to mirror each other, in several ways.

While an intriguing concept, the play is too short to pull off the comparison with any subtlety. Much of the play is simply exposition: talking about their relationship, or talking about the international tensions in the post-Cold War world. Actual conflict doesn’t begin until 15 minutes in, which is a tremendous portion of a 40-minute show. From there, it accelerates too rapidly, flung forward by lines that lack any human quality.

Performances do little to convince the audience that these two characters are anything other than shills for a political point. Neither Chester Parker and Jana Doughty follow the emotional peaks and valleys of their characters, creating a jarring disconnect between action and audience. This makes the rather extreme climax feel unearned, and even inappropriate.

Collateral Damage cannot connect the past and the present. With an argument formed in fumbling lines and unconvincing performances, it becomes hard not to feel that the conversation in the play happened in a different world, one where the US was uncontested as a dominant superpower and ‘Islamic extremism’ had not yet become a buzzword. Dulled by bare structure, basic dialogue and unconvincing performances, the bombs that Collateral Damage attempts to drop are mere duds.

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

It is 1999 and war rages in the Balkans. In their comfortable North London home, Daniel and Leonie have invited guests to dinner to celebrate Daniel's 50th birthday. As they prepare for the evening, scenes of fleeing refugees and the bombing of Belgrade fill the TV screen in their kitchen. Political and personal tensions mount, leading to an unexpected and horrifying climax. The themes and issues of this play are as relevant today as when it was written. First performed in the Tricycle Theatre, London. More info at www.edinburghmakars.com.

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