Fever Chart: Three Visions of the Middle East

War! What is it good for? Well, in this case, it's good for about half of this Warwick University student production of Naomi Wallace's The Fever Chart: Three Visions of the Middle East. The rest of the time, it's a bit of a cluster-fuck, as one character helpfully announces. Wallace's play is an exploration of various conflicts through the surreal and occasionally beautiful minutiae of a few individual lives.When its strays outside this detailed localism, it's exactly as irritating as I thought it would be, but its best parts and lines aren't directly about war – they're about pigeons, a zoo full of decomposing animals, and the dangers inherent in giving deep throat with a lung transplant. The first vision, a pigeon-fancier's monologue, is the strongest, mostly because of its acting – elsewhere the poetry of the script stutters and fails when it's filtered through more banal performances.There's also something surreal about a cast of mostly white students trying their hand at being victims of the Middle Eastern conflict, but in times of severe cuts to arts funding we might have to make do with this kind of thing.It's redeemed by some fantastic sonic and visual moments involving the whole company – the use of books for the entire set is a nice touch and the batting together of their pages for the sound of gunfire is original and spectacular. Musical accompaniment from a guitar played with a violin bow is a treat, and generally all the special effects are resourceful, involving, and give a wider sense of community than the (thankfully) rooted 'visions' themselves suggest. At moments, the script is a smart bomb – though at times, it's dull and worthy – but the cast could do a better job of setting its co-ordinates before they fire it.

Reviews by Richard O'Brien

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The Blurb

An intimate experience. Three lyrical stories remind us of the shared humanity of those caught in crossfire. Humorous, harrowing and uplifting - with a touch of the surreal. thefeverchart.blogspot.com.

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