The Interview

A quick glance into the Fringe brochure may lead an innocent punter to think The Interview is an intriguing show. It’s on at the Underbelly, the poster is enticing, the description even more so. It boldly professes to be a serious issue play about the ‘use of enhanced interrogation techniques’ and ‘America’s insipid and ridiculous gun laws’, claiming to be a ‘non-stop assault on the issues the play examines’. However, the issues the play examines are not assaulted but rather exploited in glamorised violence, tastelessly and repetitively. Instead of highlighting points of discussion, The Interview goes so far out of its way to shock people that it loses track of where it has come from.

The Interview sells itself as a play about investigation techniques and torture. In reality, the issue is ill-investigated and the play is torturous to watch.

The opening moments reveal the following set up: a man is tied to a chair. Two sadistic officers harass him. Two similarly sadistic soldiers follow their officers’ orders. The man is tortured in a series of beatings, the officers consistently asking ‘how do you like me now?’ or other such melodramatic, clichéd utterances. The language throughout is masculine, aggressive, and resembles a bad imitation of David Mamet. A tacky slideshow pops up to communicate to us that the man in the chair has been drugged. High and onstage alone, he rambles on about his mother, bipolar disorder and Satan. Some discussion of God is thrown in for good measure and then one of the officers returns to undergo a very implausible moral crisis about his occupation. Soon, for reasons unexplained, things descend into bloody violence.

All of the characters are undeveloped, unpleasant and uninteresting. It’s difficult to know how one should feel when watching a character who’s forged no connection with the audience be brutally tortured. The interviewee goes from a pathetic victim to a lunatic without showing any traits worthy of love or respect along the way. If this choice was supposed to be funny rather than heart-wrenching, the intention was lost on me.

The Interview indeed also describes itself as ‘a bitingly dark comedy’. The two soldiers list all the different torture mechanisms that they are considering in rapid fire succession which descends into a kind of farcical double act. But, the sadistic jokes, which are not funny to begin with, don’t get funnier with exhausting repetition, funnily enough. Some moments are amusing, but more for their implausibility than for their humour. The acting on the whole is very competent, but suffers justly under the strain of the confused direction.

‘End torture’, the actors urge at curtain call. We can all agree that this should happen, though I can’t say that it was this particular piece of writing that swayed us. Like Tommy Wiseau, the auteur behind The Room, the actor/writer/producer of The Interview greets us as we leave the theatre. He informs us that he’s actually alright and we mustn’t think he’s been scarred by the experience of playing the prisoner. If only so much could be said of his audience. The Interview sells itself as a play about investigation techniques and torture. In reality, the issue is ill-investigated and the play is torturous to watch.

Reviews by Joanna Alpern

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The Interview

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Performances

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The Blurb

A bitingly dark comedy centering around the extraordinary rendition of an American citizen, the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, America's insipid and ridiculous gun laws and the seemingly never-ending cycle of man's inhumanity to man as we come to terms with the surveillance state that the world has become. Directed by Charles Otte, The Interview is a non-stop assault on the issues the play examines. Just when you think you've got it figured out, the play twists back in on itself leaving the audience to decide just what in this world is real.

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