The Time of Our Lies - The Life and Times of Howard Zinn

A visceral performance, The Time of Our Lies benefits greatly from the impassioned commitment of its five-strong cast.

You come away believing in the message it (and by proxy, Zinn) delivers, regardless of whether this is one we might have already heard.

Dripping sweat within minutes, they sing, bellow, march, scrape and crawl through the show, never once wavering in attention or energy. Sweat they must, for the production uses choreography, rap, song and video projection to articulate the life and writings of Howard Zinn.

Zinn, a former WW2 bombardier, becomes a social activist and staunch anti-war commentator following his bombing of French town Rouen in 1945. As marching and military chants give way to choreographed, claustrophobic agony and mournful, sung laments, we investigate modern warfare from Zinn's horror at his actions through to his well-documented objection to the War on Terror.

With this prolific use of multimedia, it is perhaps not surprising that some of the elements do not entirely hit their mark. The rap in particular feels tonally adrift, a momentary parody in a show that suffers a little under the weight of its own earnestness. The argument that is being made here is done so forcefully that there is barely time during the performance to reflect on what we are seeing and develop our emotional response.

The anti-war statements are initially bold but are repeated rather than expanded, giving a faint impression that this show would have had greater resonance had it been performed a few years earlier. There is, however, a fresher perspective in its depictions of how soldiers respond to the realities of war; this is where the real strength of the story lies.

As talented singer Charlotte Di Gregorio somehow manages to belt out a tune on her hands and knees, Dana Wilson delivers a heart-felt monologue stood on the back of her co-stars, even as Antonio Anagaran is shot in slow-motion during the opening scene. It becomes clear that the heart of The Time of Our Lies is in the right place. You come away believing in the message it (and by proxy, Zinn) delivers, regardless of whether this is one we might have already heard.

Reviews by Jane Harrison

Assembly George Square Studios

Freak

★★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

The provocative story of renowned US historian, educator and activist Howard Zinn, author of the best-selling and highly influential book A People's History of the United States, as a young bombardier in World War Two. This important piece, choreographed through song and rap, cautions against the politics of US history and challenges the dominant narrative. ‘There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people’ (Howard Zinn).